Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus recently established a permanent habitat in southern Arizona, and as a consequence, last year Arizona saw the greatest number of West Nile infection cases compared to all other US states. Due to the disease threat mosquitoes pose in Arizona, it is tremendously important for medical professionals and public health agencies in the state to do their best to educate the public on how to avoid mosquito bites. Unfortunately, some experts believe that the current COVID 19 pandemic is overshadowing the threat of mosquito-borne disease, particularly in hospital and clinical settings where medical professionals may mistake symptoms of West Nile for symptoms of COVID 19.
Around 150 mosquito species have been documented in the US, 40 of which can be found in Arizona. At least six mosquito species in southern Arizona are known disease vectors, most of which are Culex and Aedes species. While a few mosquito pests in Arizona are capable of transmitting western equine encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis to humans, the West Nile virus is easily the most common and deadly mosquito-borne disease that occurs in the state. Most people who contact the West Nile virus are asymptomatic, and therefore, are unaware that they have become infected. However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that one in five people who contract West Nile develop multiple symptoms including headache, fever, vomiting, or rashes.
It is estimated that one out of every 150 people who become infected with West Nile go on to develop a potentially fatal illness affecting the brain and spinal cord. The most common and basic symptoms of both the West Nile virus and COVID 19 are fever and body aches, and one vector control professional, Jason Fritz, worries that doctors who encounter patients with these symptoms are only considering COVID 19 as the possible cause, and not the West Nile virus. Applying mosquito repellent products that contain DEET or picaridin as the main ingredient work best to repel mosquitoes, according to the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Have you sustained any mosquito bites yet this year?