Maricopa County reports season’s first West Nile death, warns about mosquitoes

Sep 1, 2021, 1:13 PM | Updated: 1:29 pm
(Twitter Photo/@Maricopahealth)...
(Twitter Photo/@Maricopahealth)
(Twitter Photo/@Maricopahealth)

PHOENIX – Maricopa County on Wednesday reported its first death of the season from West Nile virus, which typically spreads to humans via mosquito bites.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health said there have already been 36 documented cases of West Nile virus in humans this season. Last year’s total was just three cases and one death.

The person who died was described in a press release as an “older adult who also had other health conditions.”

The county’s year-round mosquito surveillance program has documented a 400% increase in positive West Nile virus mosquito samples over last year.

The uptick is a consequence of all the rain the Valley’s seen during an active monsoon storm season.

“Mosquitoes need water. They also need warm temperatures. So what we have right now are ideal conditions for mosquito breeding: a lot of stagnant water and warm temperatures,” Johnny Diloné, spokesman for the Maricopa County Department of Environmental Services, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

Diloné said the county has been receiving complaints about mosquitos from all across metro Phoenix.

Officials are encouraging residents to get rid of any standing water on their properties, which are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

“With so much rain this summer, we all need to stay mindful of eliminating standing water where mosquitos can breed, like pet dishes, potted plants, and even toys,” Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of the Maricopa County Disease Control Division, said in the press release.

Other ways to prevent West Nile include using repellent containing DEET or Picaridin on exposed skin, wearing lightweight clothing that keeps legs and arms covered and making sure window and door screens don’t have holes.

West Nile causes symptoms — fever, headache, body aches and muscle weakness – in only about 20% of infections.

In rare cases, about 1 in 150 infections, the virus can cause encephalitis or meningitis, with symptoms such as headache, neck stiffness, vision loss and paralysis.

People older than 60 year old or who have underlying medical conditions or have depressed immune systems are at increased risk for serious complications if infected.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.

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Maricopa County reports season’s first West Nile death, warns about mosquitoes