After reporting 3 confirmed human cases of West Nile virus infection this season to date, Maricopa County Department of Public Health announced the first death of the season from the disease. The victim was an east valley gentleman in his early 60s with underlying health issues.
“Sadly, there is another victim of West Nile virus, a disease we now see every year,” said Dr. Bob England, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “We can’t stress enough the importance in all of us doing our part in ridding our properties of standing water, where mosquitoes like to breed. A little effort can go a long way in protecting the whole community from West Nile virus.”
West Nile virus can cause severe illness in people and horses, although only about 20% of those infected will develop any symptoms at all, usually flu-like: 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.
“Prevention is the best tool we have”, said John Kolman, Director of Maricopa County Environmental Services Department. “We need to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and also prevent mosquitoes from breeding,” Kolman added.
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 2013, Maricopa County experienced a relatively mild West Nile virus season with 52 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 mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus.