Officials confirm 1st West Nile death in Maricopa County this year

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX – Health officials have confirmed Maricopa County's first death from West Nile virus this year.

The victim was an East Valley man in his 60s with underlying health issues, according to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

"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 percent 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."

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, more than 1,000 human cases have been reported. Last year, there were 52 lab-confirmed cases in Maricopa County. So far this season, there have been three.

For more information, call the West Nile Virus General Information and Help Line at 602 506-0700 or visit