Maricopa County warns of spike in mosquitoes with West Nile Virus

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- Mosquitos in Arizona have become more than pests. They are now downright dangerous due to diseases they carry, like West Nile Virus.

This year, there is more cause for alarm, as officials with the Maricopa County Health Department say cases of West Nile have spiked, and they are worried the trend will continue.

Health officials say all kinds of things play into this, such as the rainy weather, standing water in yards, and even the bird population. The key is people have to battle back.

The mosquitos Maricopa County collects across the Valley may make skins crawl, but the testing reveals valuable information.

"What we're seeing now is one of the highest numbers that weve seen in years this early, and we're seeing a lot more cases every week than we would expect to see so soon," said Maricopa County Public Health Medical Director, Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine.

27 people have been confirmed to have West Nile in Maricopa County since the beginning of the year, three more than were diagnosed during all of last year.

"A lot more infected mosquitos with higher numbers of disease mean we need to wear insect repellant and clear water out of our yards where mosquitos can breed," said Dr. Sunenshine.

Symptoms start out very flu-like and can progress to paralysis if people get the severe form of West Nile.

There is no cure.

Dr. Sunenshine said prevention of getting the virus is key, which means people have to keep from being bitten. She knows some are reluctant to use DEET, but it's effective.

"The benefits of having DEET on our children and on our skins outweigh the risks of having West Nile Virus, so I put DEET on my child also," said Dr. Sunenshine.

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