Maricopa County Reports Its First West Nile Death Of Season

mosquito

PHOENIX – The Maricopa County Department of Public Health has announced the death of a resident from from West Nile virus. The vicitm was an older adult who also had other health conditions.

So far, 27 human cases of West Nile virus infection have been reported this season.

“This tragic death serves as an important reminder to all of us to do our part in protecting ourselves, our family and our neighborhoods from mosquito-borne diseases,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of the Disease Control Division at Maricopa County Department of Public Health in a press release. “With monsoon season upon us, it’s likely we’ll see even more mosquito activity. Use insect repellent whenever you are outdoors, and get rid of water outside your home where mosquitos can breed, like pet dishes, potted plants, even toys.”

According to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health: West Nile virus is typically spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Although it can cause severe disease, only about 1 in 5 of those infected will develop any symptoms at all. Those who do develop symptoms usually experience a flu-like illness including fever, headache, body aches and muscle weakness. Rarely, about 1 in 150 people infected can develop meningitis or encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.  This more severe form of the disease typically presents with high fever, headache, neck stiffness, and paralysis.  These severe cases can lead to permanent paralysis or death. Those who are over 60 years old, have underlying medical conditions or depressed immune systems are at higher risk for the more severe form of West Nile virus.

“Public Health is working very closely with healthcare providers, Maricopa County Environmental Services and state and federal partners to maintain a strong surveillance system both for humans and mosquitoes, and to put prevention strategies in place,” said Dr. Sunenshine.

Maricopa County Health officials are urging members of the public to “Fight the Bite” and follow simple precautions to avoid mosquitoes and the diseases they may carry:

  • Avoid mosquito bites day and night
  • Use insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, or other EPA-registered repellants according to the product label on exposed skin and clothing
  • Drain and remove containers that hold water from around your home where mosquitoes can breed such as plastic covers, buckets, old tires, plant trays, pet bowls, toys, and boats
  • Scrape the sides of the dish or inside potted plants where mosquitoes lay their eggs
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens, no holes and remain closed
  • If it’s not too hot, wear lightweight clothing that covers your arms and legs
  • Ensure that swimming pools and decorative water features are properly maintained

In 2018, Maricopa County had 24 West Nile virus human cases and six deaths.

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