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Data shows record number of West Nile cases in humans in Maricopa County

West Nile virus symptoms are similar to COVID-19 at first, experts say
Posted at 2:37 PM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-09 01:21:48-04

A record number of West Nile cases in humans has been reported in the state’s largest county, according to new data posted.

Maricopa County is now reporting 361 West Nile cases in humans, exceeding the record set in 2004 which was 355 cases.

At the end of September, Maricopa County health officials shared the record number of cases for more than 15 years:

2004: 355 cases in humans

2019: 155 cases in humans

2020: three total cases in humans

2021: 361 cases in humans as of October 7

Along with 361 new cases, Maricopa County health officials are reporting a total of 19 deaths.

At the end of last month, Maricopa County officials said there are still several months left in the mosquito season.

Maricopa County’s Environmental Services Department has hundreds of traps around the county, where they test mosquitoes for West Nile as well.

ABC15 followed up with Gary Bushko of Peoria and his road to recovery as he was one of the first West Nile cases that were shared publicly over the summer.

The family learned that Bushko tested positive for West Nile after becoming partially paralyzed by the virus.

Bushko’s wife, Jennifer Snider-Bushko, telling ABC15 that Gary has moved into a rehab facility on Friday.

Bushko is beginning to talk, but is unable to sit, or walk, or use his left arm still. She said her husband had many setbacks in the hospital contracting COVID-19, an infection, as well as pneumonia.

After nearly six weeks in the hospital, Snider-Bushko said they learned this week that Bushko would have to transfer to the rehabilitation center.

The family has been relying on a fundraiser to help with medical bills as Bushko was uninsured — that fundraiser is what is paying for the therapy at $10,000 for ten days.

“Ten grand for ten days of rehab, when we have $22,000, I’m just like we have ten days and then maybe if we gets stronger, maybe we’ll buy another five days,” said Snider-Bushko.

As of Friday, there have been 716 positive West Nile samples in mosquitoes tested from those traps. That number far exceeds any other year — including 2019 when county officials reported 417 positive samples.

Experts are offering tips on ways to fight the bite when it comes to mosquitoes.

  • You should use an EPA-registered insect repellent and make sure windows and doors that you may leave open have insect screens.
  • Long-sleeved shirts and long pants help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
  • Protect your home by eliminating standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs.
  • A small amount of water in a flowerpot, bucket, upturned children’s toys or any other potential basin can become a mosquito breeding ground.
  • Standing water that can’t be discarded can be treated with larvicides that usually are available at the hardware store.

Maricopa County health officials are also providing tips on how to prevent mosquitoes from breeding:

  • Don't allow any outside water to stand for more than four days.
  • Change water in animal watering dishes at least twice a week.
  • Immediately remove any water that collects on pool covers.
  • Clear leaves and twigs from eaves, troughs, storm and roof gutters.

You can report mosquito issues to Maricopa County by clicking here.

Health officials say for those experiencing having flu-like symptoms and/or neurological symptoms, they should seek healthcare and can ask their provider for a West Nile virus test.

For more information on West Nile virus signs and symptoms, click here.