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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA works to prevent West Nile virus from spreading on campus

    As Pima County continues to see a rise in the number of reported West Nile virus cases, the UA is taking steps to ensure the campus and surrounding areas will not become places of “”hot zone”” activity.

    John Farlow, spokesman for the Pima County Health Department, said the main goal is communitywide education in addition to reducing vegetation and standing areas of water that mosquitoes use for breeding.

    The UA is enacting similar measures to prevent West Nile.

    “”The best prevention is to eliminate standing water, which can be used as a breeding site by mosquitoes,”” said Chris Kopach, associate director for Facilities Management. “”Facilities Management, along with the Grounds Department, check 80 to 100 locations on campus to make sure that there is no standing water.””

    If personnel find areas conducive to mosquito breeding, they will apply a larvicide that will immediately kill mosquito larvae, Kopach said.

    Although the Pima County Health Department is not aware of any reported cases of West Nile at the UA, the campus officials should still take measures to ensure it does not become a habitable place for mosquito breeding, Farlow said.

    Kopach said he regularly sees potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes on campus.

    “”There are several areas of focus, but our two most significant areas are the College of Pharmacy and the Harvill building,”” Kopach said.

    West Nile virus is a potentially serious illness spread by the bite of an infected mosquito that has fed on birds that carry the virus.

    West Nile virus cases occur from May through October, during peak mosquito season.

    Anyone can be infected by mosquitoes, but most people infected have no symptoms or mild symptoms, said Dr. Harry McDermott, director of Campus Health Service.

    “”Those individuals that do show symptoms exhibit flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, and weakness and fatigue, with severe cases showing vomiting and seizures,”” McDermott said.

    It is estimated that 80 percent of those infected have no symptoms, 20 percent have mild symptoms, and less than 1 percent get severe symptoms and life-threatening illness, McDermott said.

    There is no specific drug that people can take to get rid of the virus.

    “”Treatment is supportive care until the person’s immune system controls the virus and they recover,”” McDermott said. “”For the vast majority of people who become infected, the prognosis is very good.””

    Angela Occhiogrosso, a sophomore majoring in Spanish, said she was aware of the virus but was surprised when she contracted the disease last February.

    “”At first, I just thought I had a head cold because all I had was a headache and sore muscles,”” Occhiogrosso said. “”After a week or two, I developed a high fever and really swollen lymph nodes and was constantly tired.””

    After a few weeks, Occhiogrosso said she became worried that her symptoms were not going away and visited Campus Health.

    “”The doctor at Campus Health said that I most likely had strep throat or mononucleosis, but I tested negative for both, and the doctor was unsure about what I had,”” Occhiogrosso said.

    A week later, Occhigrosso was told that she had West Nile virus when she went to donate blood.

    “”I wasn’t given any medication or treatment besides taking self-administered ibuprofen and aspirin to reduce the fever and pain,”” Occhiogrosso said. “”I was upset that Campus Health did not catch something so potentially serious and dangerous.””

    There have been 28 reported cases of West Nile virus, with one death in Pima County, Farlow said.

    Overall, there have been 91 reported cases in Arizona, with four confirmed deaths, Farlow said.

    “”The city is taking a multifaceted approach in an attempt to reduce the high number of cases,”” Farlow said.

    UA faculty and students are encouraged to report any problems, such as standing water, to Facilities Management, but they are also encouraged to take an active role in preventing the transmission of the virus, Kopach said.

    Building managers and occupants should flush all sinks and floor drains in the work area twice a week as this prevents mosquitoes from breeding in plumbing traps, Kopach said.

    Window and door screens should be in good condition, and people should wear insect repellant, long sleeves and pants, Kopach added.

    Another noticeable problem is associated with trash and recycling.

    “”We have seen that soda cans and other open drink containers in the trash or recycling bins that have some remaining liquid in them can serve as a habitable breeding ground for mosquitoes,”” Kopach said. “”It would be helpful if people made sure that these containers were empty.””

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