County Monitors Mosquitoes For West Nile

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The Gila County Health Department is monitoring mosquitoes in both Payson and Globe, on the look out for West Nile virus.

Recent reports show an increase in the virus activity in Arizona, including infections in horses in nearby Coconino, Navajo and Apache counties.

"We're trapping mosquitoes each month and sending them to the Vector Borne Disease Lab for testing on a number of diseases, including West Nile," Dave Pote, of the county health department said.

The disease has not been found in Gila County yet, he said.

It takes a month for the work to be complete, so results on the mosquitoes trapped just this month will not be reported until October and the reports the department is looking at now are from tests on August captures.

"We're collecting dead birds." Pote said. "If people fine them, they should notify Animal Control. The birds are also sent for testing for West Nile and other diseases."

Additionally, the health department has started a public campaign stressing the importance of using insect repellent when outside, especially in the early morning and evening hours, he said. The department also is working to enlist the assistance of clubs and organizations, like the Boy Scouts, Rotary and Lions to distribute educational literature, Pote said.

"Historically our mosquito season ends in at the end of October, but an early freeze would help," he said. "It would not kill the mosquitoes, but it would reduce their activity."

The health department is doing surveys of known standing bodies of water on public lands and examining the shorelines for larva, when it is found, larvacide is applied.

"We'll never get rid of mosquitoes ... We just want the people of Gila County to know we're doing the best we can to make people aware," Pote said.

He said the number of reports on cases of the virus in humans is dropping in the east.

"It suggests that what we call a herd immunity may be developing," he said.

Pote said people need to make sure they dump any standing water, especially in the shade and stay away from where water collects.

"After (last week's) rain, mosquitoes will be breeding within the week," he said.

The state health department issued the following recommendations for protection against mosquitoes.

The best way to protect from mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and neighborhood. Personal precautions to take include:

  • Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can breed such as cans, bottles, jars, buckets, old tired, drums and other containers.
  • Change water in flower vases, birdbaths, planters and animal watering pans at least twice a week.
  • Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets and move air conditioner drain hoses frequently.
  • Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes when going outside at night by using insect repellent and wear lightweight, light-colored clothing that covers the arms and legs.

"The chance that any one person is going to become ill from a mosquito bite is low," Dr. Bob England, state epidemiologist, said. "Most people do not become ill, and for those who do, most suffer only a mild flu-like illness for a few days before they recover. The symptoms may be so mild that most don't even know they were infected."

For more information, Pote can be reached at (928) 425-3231, extension 8517, or call the Payson office of the county health department at (928) 474-1210.

Additional information is on the state health department's website: www.hs.state.az.us, or call (800) 314-9243.

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