West Nile virus scare in Flagstaff

Illustration by Blake Fernandez

A group of mosquitoes has tested positive for West Nile virus on two occasions, according to the Coconino County Health and Human Services website. The infected mosquitos were found south of Lake Mary Road and from the Cheshire area in Flagstaff. However, there have been no recent reports of humans contracting the virus in Coconino County since 2010.

Natalie Haan, a Flagstaff resident and student at Coconino Community College, said she felt unsettled regarding the virus. She said one of her professors was talking about the West Nile virus in class and she freaked out when she noticed an itchy, red, big bite on her arm.

“After hearing people around school talking about the virus, it was definitely on my mind,” Haan said.

After discovering the bite, Haan said she felt nervous and visited a doctor. However, she said the nurse told her it was not a mosquito bite.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of the virus include developing a fever, headaches, body aches and vomiting. Other more serious symptoms include numbness, neck stiffness, tremors, muscle weakness, vision loss, coma or paralysis.

However, eight out of 10 people infected with the virus do not develop any symptoms, according to the CDC. Only about one in 150 cases develop a serious and severe illness, which can affect the central nervous system.

“I feel really scared and sad for the people that actually might contract the virus,” Haan said. “I’m curious to know if there’s treatment or a cure for it and if there’s any way to tell if you have it sooner rather than later. It’s scary not knowing, especially when mosquito bites are so common.”

According to the CDC, there is no treatment available. Instead, pain relievers can be used to relieve fever.

During her visit, Haan said the nurse told her mosquitos are not something Flagstaff residents should be afraid of.

Most mosquitoes hibernate in the winter and temperatures need to remain consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit for their eggs to hatch, according to the Mosquito Magnet website.

Many people may take precautions in order to prevent or avoid mosquito bites. This can include wearing protective clothing and not being outside for long periods of time.