Maricopa County health officials confirm first West Nile-related death of the season

Posted at 3:59 PM, Jul 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-23 07:52:52-04

Health officials are reporting the first West Nile virus death of the season in Maricopa County.

On Thursday, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health released a statement saying that there have been 19 human cases of the virus being reported so far this season.

According to health officials, the first confirmed death was an older person who suffered from several other health issues.

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Last year there were 63 confirmed West Nile virus cases and five deaths.

The mosquito-borne infection can cause serious symptoms in humans and horses. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches and muscle weakness, health officials said.

Rarely, infected individuals will experience more severe symptoms including high fever, neck stiffness, and/or encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain. These symptoms can cause paralysis or death and people over the age of 50 are more at risk.

“With all the recent rain we’ve had, it’s likely we’ll see more mosquito activity,” Dr. Rebecca Sunshine, medical director of the Disease Control Division at Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “Apply insect repellent and cover up whenever you are outdoors and do your part to rid your property of water where mosquitoes like to breed.

So far this year, the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department discovered 62 West Nile virus-positive mosquito samples and two Saint Louis encephalitis-positive mosquito samples.

There are several ways to protect yourself against mosquitoes.

Here are tips from Maricopa County Health officials:

  • Avoid mosquito bites day and night
  • Wear lightweight clothing that covers your arms and legs
  • Use insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, or other EPA registered repellants according to the product label on exposed skin and clothing
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens and remain closed
  • 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
  • Ensure that swimming pools and decorative water features are properly maintained