Monsoons bring much-needed rain but also concern of West Nile Virus

Arizona Department of Health Services officials say monsoons can bring much-needed rainfall to the state amid raging wildfires, but authorities also say the storms create the opportunity for mosquito breeding and could bring a threat of West Nile Virus.

The Lake Havasu City News-Herald reports that state health officials currently are investigating a few possible West Nile Virus cases, but none have yet been confirmed. Last season, Arizona had the second-highest number of reported cases in the nation.

"So far, we haven't had any cases of West Nile Virus reported in the 2012 season, but it's always a threat," said Will Humble, director of the state health department, in a prepared statement. "Because it's carried by mosquitoes, we have to work together to prevent the spread of the virus."

In all, 67 confirmed and probable cases were reported in Arizona last year.

According to state numbers, the cases were detected in individuals ranging from 17 to 82 years of age.

The most cases were reported in Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix, and totaled 43 cases, or 64 percent of all Arizona cases. Statewide, there were four fatal cases, according to state health numbers.

In 2010, Arizona ranked first in the U.S. with the most reported cases with 166.

Humble said he suggests ensuring no standing water exists near residences. For example, turning over a wheel barrow can reduce potential mosquito breeding grounds. Furthermore, if a person recognizes a potential mosquito-breeding environment at nearby residences, work with neighbors to resolve or eliminate the hazard.

"Reducing the breeding places for mosquitoes will cut down the number of cased of West Nile we get in the state," he said.

Symptoms affect about 20 percent of affected individuals, and are described as "flu-like" including fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands, and muscle weakness. Symptoms can last for days of weeks. In rare cases, West Nile Virus can cause encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain; or meningitis, which is inflammation of the linings of the brain and spinal cord.

In Arizona, monsoon begins mid-June and lasts through September.

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