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Maricopa County confirms first two West Nile virus deaths of 2016

PHOENIX — Two people have died after contracting West Nile virus, Maricopa County health officials announced Thursday.

They are the first to be killed by the virus this year. Both victims were over the age of 50.

“These tragic deaths serve as an important reminder to all of us to do our part in protecting ourselves, our family and our neighborhoods from mosquito-borne diseases,” Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of the Disease Control Division at Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said in a press release.

The county has confirmed 26 cases of the West Nile this year.

Last year, it confirmed 97 cases, two of which were fatal.

West Nile is a mosquito-borne virus that causes severe illness in about 20 percent of the people it infects. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, weakness, neck stiffness and swelling of the brain.

Sunenshine said the recent monsoon rains could lead to more mosquito activity. She urged people to take steps to avoid being bitten.

“Apply insect repellent and cover up whenever you are outdoors, and do your part to rid your property of water where mosquitos like to breed,” she said.

People are also urged to use mosquito repellent and ensure window screens are in good condition.

Anyone who spots abnormal mosquito activity in their area is asked to contact the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department Mosquito Information & Complaints Hotline at 602-506-0700.

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