Las Vegas is known as the city of sin, a place for gambling, fine dining, and decadence. Now, you can add another notable characteristic to that list: West Nile. You may want to hold off on scheduling your trip to the Sin City — or at least stock up on bug spray — because health officials have reported that mosquitoes in Southern Nevada have tested positive for the virus.
Vegas health officials made this discovery when testing mosquitoes for the Zika virus. The test results came back negative for Zika, but they — unfortunately — came back positive for West Nile. Officials did not expect this finding, as their focus was on determining whether Zika-carrying mosquitoes were present. West Nile-carrying mosquitoes were found in three zipcodes — 89011, 89110, and 89146 — throughout the Las Vegas Valley. So far, there has only been one reported case of West Nile in the county.
West Nile virus is an illness spread by mosquitoes who have acquired it by feeding on infected birds. While most people do not experience any symptoms after becoming infected, approximately 20% of those infected develop a fever accompanied by symptoms like a headache, body aches, diarrhea, and vomiting. In severe cases, serious neurological conditions like encephalitis and meningitis can be developed.
To decrease your chances of getting West Nile, the CDC recommends you use insect repellent when going outdoors and avoid going outside at dusk and dawn because they're peak mosquito-biting hours. Temperature-permitting, try to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors to decrease the amount of skin you're exposing to mosquitoes.
Health officials already plan to conduct mosquito fogging operations throughout Southern Nevada. They hope to reduce mosquito populations and thus decrease transmission of mosquito-borne diseases. While discovering mosquitoes carrying West Nile was unexpected, proactivity on the part of Las Vegas officials could ensure decreased transmission of the illness.