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West Nile Virus

Ryan Hahn (right) works on his Eagle Scout problem with (from left) Raul Rivera, Derek Blakely and Braydon Sanders. Photo by Michelle Chance

Three years ago a Maricopa woman rushed her husband to the emergency room. Doug Urbaniak, 64 at the time, wasn’t feeling well and momentarily lost consciousness.

Once admitted to the hospital, Urbaniak woke up and gave his son a call – but he ended the conversation abruptly.

Urbaniak has been paralyzed from that moment on, his wife Pat Urbaniak said.

Doug Urbaniak has been paralyzed for three years. His wife Pat is his caregiver. Photo by Michelle Chance

“He was talking to his son on the phone in Ohio and all of a sudden he said ‘I think I have to go’; His hand dropped and he never moved again,” Pat said. “It happened that quickly.”

 For the first two weeks, hospital staff in Chandler referred to Doug Urbaniak as their “mystery patient.”

Finally, after spinal taps and bloodwork, doctors diagnosed Doug with the West Nile virus, an infection transmitted by mosquitos. A physician said he probably contracted it in the backyard of their Maricopa home, Pat said.

After lengthy hospital stays, Doug was transferred to a skilled nursing facility in Scottsdale for rehabilitation. He would spend almost three years there and regain the use of one arm.

Five months ago Urbaniak finally returned home.

Pat is Doug’s dedicated companion and caregiver. At night Pat is summoned by Doug’s bedside bell every two hours to suction his lungs, which Pat said are also paralyzed.

“When he rings I zoom back out here,” Pat said.

Ryan Hahn (back) with scouts (from left) Raul Rivera, Derek Blakely, Braiden Whitworth and Braydon Sanders. Submitted photo

At the couple’s house, Doug enjoys the company of his cocker spaniels and the kind of comfort, Doug said, only being at home can bring.

“There is something about being back at your own place that is more relaxing, soothing – that’s good medicine,” Doug said. “The dogs are very comforting as well.”

But one obstacle has prevented him from one of his most basic needs: bathing.

The Urbaniak’s shower is not wheelchair accessible, forcing Pat to help Doug bathe using the sink and a wet cloth,a process Pat said takes over an hour to complete.

“It has really been challenging,” Pat said.

Pat sought resources to help with the cost of installing an appropriate shower she estimated would have cost her thousands of dollars in labor and supplies. Despite her outreach to county and city agencies, she said every effort led to a dead-end.

“Unfortunately in Pinal County, there are very few services available,” Pat said. “In my effort to try and find services to help remodel the bathroom so he can take a shower, I made I can’t even tell you how many calls.”

That’s where a group of teenagers come in.

Seventeen-year-old Ryan Hahn is a Boy Scout in local Troop 993. He was looking for a project that would help him gain rank as an Eagle Scout.

Ryan’s dad Gerry Hahn is the troop’s committee chair. Gerry heard about the Urbaniak’s from a friend and thought the shower installation would be a way for his son to help the community, as well as complete his Eagle Scout project.

Gerry Hahn said to earn rank as an Eagle Scout, scouts are required to plan, develop and give leadership to a project that is of no cost to the person whom it benefits.

The Urbaniak’s shower remodel was also an opportunity, Hahn said, for scouts to participate in a project that is “outside of the box” compared to previous Eagle Scout projects.

In the past, Hahn said, scouts have gained rank by completing various projects in local parks around the city.

“Lately our boys have been doing the same thing over and over,” Hahn said. “I want somebody to do something noteworthy.”

Ryan began fundraising for the project three months ago by holding a car wash and asking for donations from family and friends. The remodel cost nearly $1,000, Hahn said, with the custom shower base requiring the majority of that cost.

The shower base is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and will allow Urbaniak to shower himself.

“He’ll be able to sit in a shower chair, and I’ll push him in, and he’ll be able to hold a handheld (nozzle) and shower himself. (It will) give him a little dignity,” Pat said.

Last week, Ryan and Gerry Hahn, along with four other scouts, began the remodel.

It took the teens 2.5 days to finish the project that included demolition and the installation of sheet rock, trim work and the shower base.

“It feels really cool to help out people that couldn’t help themselves,” Ryan Hahn said.

For Urbaniak, the new shower not only represents a form of independence, but the project also holds sentimental value to him as well.

“It means a lot because I haven’t had a real shower in several months and it’s very kind of the young man to volunteer to do that,” Doug Urbaniak said. “My own son was an Eagle Scout, so I know what the project means to him.” 

Gerry and Ryan Hahn. Photo by Michelle Chance

Submitted photo

By Yvonne Gonzalez

Maricopa officials are preparing for mosquito season and looking at spending thousands to equip the city with its own fogging equipment.

Last year’s mosquito issues at Copper Sky Regional Park and Pacana Park made for an unpleasant experience for visitors, Community Services Director Kristie Riester said.

“We were having a really big issue with it,” she said. “It was just making it hard to enjoy the park.”

She said mosquito abatement is done for comfort as well as concern for illnesses transmitted by the insects.

The city council is expected to discuss mosquito mitigation during a March 15 work session. Riester said the council will be asked to weigh hiring a contractor or buying the fogging equipment to spray areas impacted by mosquitoes.

“We will be presenting two different equipment options to council for foggers,” she wrote in an email. “One is $8,000 and the other is $15,000. The main difference between the two models is technology and noise level.”

Riester said two staff members are already certified to use the fogging equipment, and purchasing it means the city won’t have to pay a contractor each time the parks need to be sprayed.

“We were having a really big issue with [mosquitoes]. It was just making it hard to enjoy the park.” – Kristie Riester, Community Services Director

“It was hard,” she said of last year’s mosquito abatement. “The company that we found that was able to come out and do it for us, they came when they had other larger contracts in the area. It was such a small contract that it was sometimes hard to coordinate that.”

She said the city tried to spray the parks once a week, but if weather or other factors prevented the company from coming out, it was a challenge to reschedule.

The city sprayed the parks starting in mid-June, and Riester said the last application was in September. Fogging cost $312 for both parks, putting costs for last year at roughly $2,000.

She said the fogging spray isn’t very expensive, and the city would be able to spray more frequently with its own equipment.

“If we can purchase the equipment and do it in-house, it would save a tremendous amount of money and give us more freedom to spray when we need to,” she said.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), the most common mosquito-borne disease in Arizona is West Nile virus. About one in five people bitten by an infected mosquito will experience the virus’s flu-like symptoms.

The state agency conducts mosquito surveillance, testing samples for viruses so at-risk communities can be identified and steps taken to prevent transmission.

Reister said spreading disease is always a concern for the city.

“That’s why we did some abatement last year,” she said.

Staff members attended a University of Arizona workshop on mosquitoes in Arizona “to get a better understanding of the insects for the upcoming season,” Riester said. “I think they learned a lot from that.”

The World Health Organization recently declared the Zika virus an international health emergency. The virus started circulating in the Americas in Brazil, with about 20 percent of infected people showing symptoms like rash and fever.

There have been no cases of the virus being transmitted in the United States, but, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the public has become alarmed that Zika could be linked to birth defects in newborns.

Arizona is home to the mosquito that can carry Zika as well as the dengue virus, according to ADHS. Dengue has been expanding from the tropics and subtropics, with symptoms including high fever that last four to seven days.

While there have been no locally acquired cases of either virus, state health officials have included that type of mosquito, the Aedes aegypti, in the surveillance effort.

Those traveling to countries where Zika is being transmitted are advised to take steps to prevent mosquito bites, like wearing long sleeves.

The health department says detecting and controlling mosquito breeding sites depends on the combined efforts of the state, counties, tribal agencies, local municipalities and residents. Mosquito-borne virus transmission is most prevalent from May to October.

This story appeared in the March issue of InMaricopa News.

West Nile Virus is spread by mosquitoes. Peole over the age of 50 are most likely to develop symptoms.

By Pinal County Public Health Services

The Pinal County Public Health Services District announced Tuesday the county has seen its first locally acquired human West Nile virus (WNV) case of 2015. A male from Maricopa has been confirmed with the infection and is currently receiving medical care while recovering.

WNV is transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of a mosquito. The overall risk of WNV to humans is low and the majority of people infected will not experience any clinical symptoms.

For those that get symptoms common symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness and body aches. A small percentage of people may experience a more serious form of illness that can include lasting or permanent neurological effects. People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious symptoms of WNV if they do get sick and should take special care to avoid mosquito bites.

To reduce both annoying bites from floodwater mosquitoes and the risk of West Nile, Pinal County recommends the following:

–    Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can lay their eggs. Check for items outside the home that collect water, such as cans, bottles, jars, buckets, old tires, drums and other containers and get rid of them.

–    Change water in flower vases, birdbaths, planters and animal watering pans at least twice a week.

–    Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets, and move air conditioner drain hoses frequently.

–    Use insect repellent on exposed skin when you go outdoors. Use an EPA-registered insect repellent such as those with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Even a short time being outdoors can be long enough to get a mosquito bite.

–    When weather permits, wear long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent will give extra protection. Don’t apply repellents containing permethrin directly to skin. Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.

–    Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing during evening and early morning — or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many species of mosquitoes.

–    Repair or install screens on your home. Keep mosquitoes outside by having well-fitting screens on both windows and doors. Offer to help neighbors whose screens might be in bad shape. Don’t forget to make sure that screens are repaired on tents when camping.

–    If you have a swimming pool, keep it operational. If you must keep it out of use, make sure you remove the standing water, keep it chlorinated, or run the filter daily.

Horses are also susceptible to WNV. Horse owners are encouraged to talk with their veterinarians regarding the WNV vaccine for horses.

For more information about West Nile Virus visit CDC.gov/WestNile/index.html

Pinal County Environmental Health Services also investigates complaints related to WNV, such as standing water, green pools, or other reports of mosquito activity. If you would like information on mosquito prevention and control, or to file a complaint, visit the Pinal County Environmental Health Services webpage at PinalCountyAZ.gov/ehs, or call 866-287-0209, ext. 6200.