West Nile Virus mosquito found in Pinal County trap

Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can lay their eggs. Check for items outside the home that collect water, such as cans, bottles, jars, buckets, old tires, drums and other containers and get rid of them. (James Gathany CDC)

This week, during seasonal mosquito surveillance, the Pinal County Public Health Services District detected the first West Nile Virus positive mosquitoes in the county. Mosquito surveillance is done throughout Pinal County in order to determine the relative risk of mosquito-borne disease to the community.

County officials declined to state what community, town or city the positive reading was discovered, according to an e-mail in response to questions.

“Unfortunately, West Nile Virus is endemic throughout the U.S. Our surveillance at this point is more used to inform our knowledge of the season, when mosquitoes may be infective, rather than relating risk to any particular community,” Chris Reimus, R.S., Pinal County division manager for environmental health, said in the e-mail.

“This positive mosquito sample is an indicator that everyone — anywhere in Pinal County — should be more vigilant in preventing mosquito breeding and avoiding mosquito bites. We would like to focus on the latter message rather than pointing to any specific community within the county,” he said.

Vector control specialists hang traps to catch mosquitoes, identify the mosquitoes to determine if they are the type that carry disease, and check if WNV is present in the mosquitoes caught. This data is used to help determine the risk of mosquito borne disease to Pinal County residents and visitors and it guides PCPHSD’s disease prevention efforts, according to a release.

“This is a good time to remind people that the best ways to prevent mosquito-borne illness are for residents to stop mosquito breeding on their property by checking for and emptying any standing water,” Mr. Reimus, who manages Pinal County’s vector control program, said in he release. “Even a short time outdoors can be long enough to get mosquito bites, so take care to wear protective clothing and use an effective insect repellent.”

Other ways to help prevent mosquitoes and mosquito bites:

  • Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can lay their eggs. Check for items outside the home that collect water, such as cans, bottles, jars, buckets, old tires, drums and other containers and get rid of them.
  • Change water in flower vases, birdbaths, planters, troughs, and animal watering pans at least twice a week. Be sure to scrub them out when changing water.
  • Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets, and move air conditioner drain hoses frequently to prevent standing water.
  • If you have a swimming pool or backyard pond, keep it operational. If you must keep it out of use, make sure you remove the standing water, keep it chlorinated, or run the filter daily.
  • Keep mosquitoes outside of your home by having well-fitting screens on both windows and doors.
  • When using an insect repellent, make sure it is proven effective. EPA-registered and CDC recommended insect repellents include: DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, and 2-undecanone.
  • When using sunscreen, always apply the sunscreen before you apply the insect repellent.

West Nile Virus is spread through the bite of certain mosquitoes and is now common in Arizona. Other mosquito borne diseases, including Zika virus, are emerging into North America, but have not yet been spread locally in Arizona. Pinal County’s mosquito surveillance program specifically looks for mosquitoes associated with human disease, the release states.

Not everyone who gets mosquito-borne diseases has symptoms, but for those who do, some may experience lasting or permanent effects and in the worst cases, the diseases can be fatal, according to the release.

Pinal County also investigates complaints related to disease causing mosquitoes, such as permanent standing water, green pools, or other reports of mosquito activity. For more information on mosquito prevention and control, or to file a complaint, go to the Pinal County Environmental Health Services webpage at pinalcountyaz.gov/ehs or call 866-287-0209.

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