Phoenix is epicenter for West Nile

Tuesday, August 17th 2004, 1:37 pm
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) _ Hot and dry, Phoenix seems an unlikely spot for this year's West Nile virus epicenter.

Yet, federal health officials say Arizona is the only state where the mosquito-borne virus is an epidemic.

One Arizona health official quips that while Minnesota may be the land of a thousand lakes, the metro Phoenix area is the land of thousands of abandoned swimming pools.

Those pools, plus irrigation canals, patio misters and lush lawns have inadvertently turned neighborhoods into oases for mosquitoes.

So far this year, at least 290 of the nation's more than 500 West Nile cases have been in Arizona, and three of the 14 deaths.

State health officials estimate at least 30-thousand Arizonans may have the virus without knowing it.

Nearly all the Arizona West Nile cases have occurred in the Phoenix metro area.