Hello! My name is Josie and I am the new nurse practitioner at Relieve Allergy, Asthma & Hives. I just moved from Ohio which means I’m trading centipedes and brown recluse spiders for scorpions and rattlesnakes. While learning about all the dangerous Arizona critters, I was shocked to learn about one of my native insects but with a scary twist: mosquitos with West Nile virus. Please keep reading to protect you and your family from mosquitoes this Halloweekend!
Maricopa county has had a significant increase in the amount of West Nile Virus (WNV) transmission from recent years. Researchers were already concerned with a total of 174 WNV cases in 2019 (the most since 2004), but somehow counts are already at 699 WNV cases with 47 deaths as of mid-October 2021. There are typically two spikes per year; the first spike is in August and then the second in late September, however, the spikes seem to be starting earlier and lasting longer due to the heavy monsoons.
The WNV transmission cycle begins when a mosquito feeds on an infected bird and then spreads WNV to people or other animals by biting them and injecting their saliva. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine (for humans at least, horses do have a WNV vaccine) or medication to prevent transmission and about 1 in 5 bitten by an infected mosquito will develop symptoms. Further, about 1 in 150 will develop a serious illness that could result in death. You may be at a higher risk of serious illness if you are older than 50 or are immunocompromised, signs of which include recurrent and persistent ear infections, sinus infections, pneumonia, and thrush and the frequent need for antibiotics to clear infections. You should schedule an appointment with Dr. Wendt if you are worried about immunodeficiency.
We have included a guide below so that you can prevent infection and monitor for symptoms of WNV this fall. It is important to catch symptoms early as they may be precursors to encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Symptoms may develop 2-6 days after getting bit and the virus is detected by obtaining a blood test ordered by Dr. Wendt or me. There is no specific treatment for WNV other than supportive measures. This includes over the counter pain medications, IV fluids, nursing care, etc. While this can be scary to learn about, there is some good news! WNV is not spread through coughing, sneezing, touching live animals, handling live or infected birds, or through eating infected animals. Officials in Arizona are also trying to do their part by fogging areas known to have WNV infected mosquitos. The clinical signs of WNV for your pets have not been clearly defined so if you have any concerns, you should reach out to your veterinarian.
What if I have problems with mosquito bites and it’s not West Nile Virus? Then we are here to help! A mosquito injects saliva when feeding on your blood and this saliva can cause major problems if you are allergic to it. Any mosquito bites larger than a quarter and associated with symptoms such as hives, shortness of breath, anaphylaxis, large areas of swelling, low grade fever, swollen lymph nodes, bruises, and lesions around the site could suggest that your immune system provides an inappropriate response to the bite. Schedule an appointment for allergy testing so that we can help give you the relief and protection you need: (480)500-1902.
How to prevent mosquito bites (especially during Trick Or Treat-ing!):
General Mosquito Bite Treatment:
Signs and Symptoms of WNV:
What can I do to help prevent the spread in my town?
Is mosquito fogging safe for me? What if I have asthma?
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Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, July 7). West Nile Virus. CDC.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 6). Mosquitoes. CDC.
Brower, M. (2021, October 22). Heavy summer monsoon leads to worst year of West Nile Virus
in Arizona. AZ Central. https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-health/2021/10/22/heavy-summer-monsoons-lead-worst-year-west-nile-virus/6141101001/Maricopa County Office of Epidemiology and Data Services. (2017, June). West Nile Virus.
Maricopa County. https://www.maricopa.gov/1746/West-Nile-Virus