It's mosquito season again, and with a greater risk of the West Nile Virus in Arizona, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging residents to "fight the bite."
"There's so much more that people could do for themselves to protect themselves than we could ever do," said Carolyn Haro, divisional program manager for the Gila County Office of Health.
Last year, Arizona had only 13 human cases of West Nile virus. Currently, Arizona ranks No. 1 in the nation with 20 cases, all found in Maricopa County.
So far no deaths have occurred in 2004, according to the CDC.
This is Arizona's second year fighting the virus, which may mean more human cases as the summer continues.
Last year was Colorado's second year, and it was hit hardest with a CDC report of 2,947 cases.
The Arizona Department of Health Services recently tested more than 500 mosquitoes from around the state. About 10 percent tested positive for the virus, all from Maricopa County.
So far no mosquitoes or birds have tested positive in Gila County.
ADHS also tested several horses, and found 21 from Maricopa County that tested positive.
For Arizona horse owners, there is a vaccine available for the virus. Just contact your veterinarian, Haro said.
There is no known vaccine or cure for humans, but only about 20 percent of the cases will develop symptoms. Symptoms range from headache and fever to encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.
Residents are encouraged to wear insect repellent on exposed skin. According to ADHS, repellent containing the chemical DEET is the most effective against mosquito bites.
"They should wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when going outside at dusk or in the evening," Haro said.
According to the CDC "Fight the Bite" campaign, one of the most effective ways to thwart mosquitoes is to get rid of any areas that collect water. Common yard culprits are old tires, leaky pipes, outside faucets and animal watering pans.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov or www.hs.state.az. us/, or call the Gila County Health Department at (928) 474-1210.