West Nile virus claims first victim

West Nile virus claims life of elderly man

Maricopa County Department of Public Health announced yesterday its first death of the season from the West Nile virus. Two confirmed human cases of West Nile virus infection have been reported this season to date. The victim was an elderly gentleman with underlying health issues.

“This is another example of the seriousness of West Nile virus,” said Dr. Bob England, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “Especially after the monsoons like we had this weekend, we all need to do our part to get rid of standing water and curb mosquito breeding as best we can.”

West Nile virus can cause severe illness in people and horses, although only about 20% of those infected will develop flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, body aches, and muscle weakness. Some people, especially the elderly, may experience more severe symptoms including high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, and/or encephalitis or inflammation of brain, which can lead to paralysis or death.

“We are seeing a lot of positive mosquito pools and with the continued monsoon, we recognize that the risk for WNV infection will likely continue into the fall,” said John Kolman, Director of Maricopa County Environmental Services Department.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Maricopa County Health officials urge all people to “Fight the Bite” and follow simple precautions to avoid mosquitoes and the diseases they may carry:

• Avoid outside activity between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
• Wear lightweight clothing that covers your arms and legs and use an insect repellent if you must be outdoors when mosquitoes are active. Always follow the directions on the label.
• Make sure doors and windows have tight fitting screens and remain closed.
• Eliminate mosquito-breeding sites around the home by removing standing water in potted plants, tires, bird baths and other containers where water may collect.
• Ensure that swimming pools and decorative water features are properly maintained.
• Change water in flowerpots, birdbaths and pet watering bowls located outdoors at least twice per week.

West Nile virus was first found in Arizona in 2003. Since then, over 1,000 human cases have been reported. In 2011, Maricopa County experienced a mild West Nile virus season with 45 lab confirmed cases. In 2010, Maricopa County recorded its second worst West Nile virus season with 115 lab confirmed cases. (The worst season was in 2004 with 355 confirmed cases.)

Many local vector control programs around the state have been treating mosquito breeding habitats and some counties have been fogging to kill the specific mosquito that spreads West Nile virus. If you notice green pools in your neighborhood, talk to your neighbors or notify Maricopa County Environmental Services.

In Maricopa County, for more information on West Nile virus, to set-up an appointment to obtain mosquito eating fish at no cost to you, to report green pools, file any mosquito related complaint, register on the Fogging Notification System or for WNV materials or presentations for your group/organization, please call the West Nile Virus General Information and Help Line at (602) 506-0700, or visit http://www.maricopa.gov/wnv.

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