PHOENIX - The Maricopa County Department of Public Health has confirmed the first death of the season from the West Nile virus.
An East Valley man in his early 60s, with underlying health issues, was the first victim of the disease.
West Nile virus comes back year and year and can cause serious illness in people and horses. Only around 20 percent of infected people show symptoms of the virus. The symptoms mirror that of the flu and include a fever, headaches, body aches and muscle weakness.
Mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus and transmit it to people through a bite. Maricopa County urges people to "Fight the Bite" in a campaign that tells people to follow simple precautions to avoid the pesky, flying bugs from biting and breeding.
Officials urge residents to check their properties for standing water, which is the perfect breeding environment for mosquitoes.
Officials also tell residents to avoid outside activity between dusk and dawn, wear lightweight clothing to cover arms and legs and use insect repellent when outdoors.
Other tips they have are to maintain swimming pools and other outside water and to change water in flowerpots, birdbaths and pet watering bowls.
If you flood your lawn for irrigation, be sure to monitor that the water absorbs within three days, which may not happen following monsoon storms when the ground is already saturated.
Johnny Dilone with Maricopa County Environmental Services says extreme heat can actually help keep the mosquito population at bay.
On the other hand he warns people who move to Arizona from other states or countries often take the desert heat for granted and don’t realize there’s still a high risk of West Nile.
“They come from areas that are more humid, more tropical. When they move here to the Valley they think we don't have a mosquito problem here but yes we do have a lot of mosquitos.”
West Nile first appeared in Arizona in 2003 and since then over 1,000 cases have been reported. Last year there were 52 confirmed cases.
For more information on the West Nile virus, visit www.maricopa.gov/wnv or call the West Nile Virus General Information and Help Line at 602-506-0700.