West Nile Virus spreads in Pima County

Health official says many people are asymptomatic
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 10:26 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It may be easy to know if you have a mosquito bite, but it is not as easy to know if that mosquito carried West Nile Virus.

“A lot of people may not even know they have West Nile,” said Anissa Taylor, an epidemiologist with the Pima County Health Department.

“It’s very general vague symptoms,” said Taylor. “They can be flu-like symptoms body aches, sensitivity to light G.I. symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. But, again, those can be associated with other illnesses.”

So, how can you know if you have West Nile, versus other viruses like COVID or the flu? Taylor says the best way to find out is to go to your doctor and get tested. But there are a couple of rare symptoms to look out for, she says.

“Stiffness in the neck is another symptom that’s an indication of something a little more severe,” said Taylor.

Severe infection from West Nile is relatively rare. According to the CDC, about 1 out of every 150 people who are infected are hospitalized because of it.

“There’s those really severe cases where they have swelling of the brain which is encephalitis or inflammation of the membranes covering the brain which is meningitis,” said Taylor.

And even though severe infection is rare, Taylor says it’s important to take preventative measures, because there is no vaccine for this virus.

“If you have a lot of vegetation in your yard try to avoid being out there at dusk and dawn when you see mosquitos being most active,” said Taylor. “Wear mosquito repellent, long sleeves clothing.”

Taylor says bug spray with DEET, an active ingredient in many bug repellants, is the best to use.

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