Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 19, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

West Nile Virus


  • Arizona is leading the nation in reported human cases of West Nile Virus. Pinal County Health Department Director Tom Schryer talks about how to avoid becoming infected.
Guests:
  • Tom Schryer - Pinal County Health Director
Category: Medical/Health

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State health officials say Arizona is leading the nation in the number of human cases of West Nile virus. There have been about 63 reported cases so far this year, compared to just 20 cases in all of 2009. Here to talk about this is Tom Schryer, the public health director for Pinal county. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Tom Schryer:
My pleasure.

Ted Simons:
63 -- 50 -- compare. They're all in Maricopa County and Pinal county, correct?

Tom Schryer:
Correct.

Ted Simons:
And 54 here and nine in your county, Pinal?


Tom Schryer:
Right.

Ted Simons:
And 20 at this time last year in the state? What's going on?

Tom Schryer:
We're seeing a huge change and Pinal county, we had no human cases last year and this year, we're already at nine. So it's a huge difference from what we've seen in the past and certainly, we don't know exactly what the cause is. We see increase in the mosquito activity and that's how you get West Nile Virus. So that's one of the answers.

Ted Simons:
Would a rainy winter play into this at all?

Tom Schryer:
We had a rainy winter a -- a little bit of rainy winter last year, leading up to West Nile Virus season but it's mainly the monsoon season that's an indicator. Of course, you also have the issues of foreclosed homes and peoples and those are great pleases for mosquitoes to breed.

Ted Simons:
Why do we lead the country in this?

Tom Schryer:
We don't know. We have a lot of surveillance going on and -- in Arizona. And surveillance is one of the things that sometimes can show a little bit more activity than if the state spends a little less attention ton surveillance and they're not going to see the same activity. Having said that, you know, the state has been working hard with the CDC to figure out what's going on. We don't really know. We certainly know how to prevent it, which is the most important thing.
Ted Simons:
How do you do it.

Tom Schryer:
Simple. Wear long sleeves if you're out. That's hard in Arizona, but mainly dusk and dawn. During the middle of the day, it's not a big issue. And wear mosquito repellant, there's a million different kinds out there, many that are quite safe and they really are an effective tool.

Ted Simons:
From dusk to dawn be careful or just at dusk and dawn?

Tom Schryer:
At dusk and dawn, that's when the mosquitoes are out.

Ted Simons:
If you sun sets you should be all right?

Tom Schryer:
Should be all right. For my kids I spray them. And my arms just to be safe.

Ted Simons:
Talk about the range of reaction as far as West Nile Virus is concerned. Some folks get it and dent know it and some really do know it.

Tom Schryer:
The vast majority that get it are not going to know it. Probably feel lousy for a day or two. May have a headache or something like that. However, we're seeing a lot of folks getting severe symptoms and those can be very much like meningitis where you have severe headaches and neurological deficits and ending up in intensive care units for a substantial period.

Ted Simons:
From what you understand are these symptoms and conditions last or do they go away in time?

Tom Schryer:
Well, we've been monitoring for some time cases from previous years and they seem to last for quite a long time. It's unknown what the long-term effect is. It's a bit alarming when you see folks that are still three or four years later having a real tough time.

Ted Simons:
Wow. We talked earlier before the show about reporting techniques and how to know how many cases are out there. Physicians sometimes will wait until the symptoms become severe before reporting this is West Nile Virus. Why is that?

Tom Schryer:
One of the things we've noticed is that insurance companies are not willing to pay for the West Nile Virus laboratory tests unless there are severe symptoms. So, you know, that's one of the things that affects our ability to figure out what's going on.

Ted Simons:
Is this -- does this suggest there's a lot of unreported cases going on out there?

Tom Schryer:
Absolutely, the estimate the state gives is 140 unreported cases for every reported case.


Ted Simons:
The last question. Is there a feeling that the public in general is not taking West Nile Virus all that seriously? We've heard about it for years and seems to be getting worse and yet we don't seem to be getting that attention anymore. Do you sense that?

Tom Schryer:
It's tough to say. I think when they see these great stories like this, then they start to really think about it. But it's got to be in your face. You've got to make a conscious effort. I have had to buy the mosquito repellant and I should have it in my house but I didn't. So it's something we have to think about, especially in Arizona.

Ted Simons:
And keep the standing water from standing too long in backyards and all around the house.

Tom Schryer:
Absolutely.

Ted Simons:
Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Tom Schryer:
My pleasure.

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