Maricopa County reports second death from West Nile virus in 2021

Maricopa County has reported its second death from the West Nile virus this year, and officials are advising the public to do its best to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes during the busy monsoon season.

County officials say 51 people have been infected with the virus this year, a significant rise from the three cases reported in 2020. One person died from the mosquito-borne illness last year.

The first person who died was reportedly an older adult who had other health conditions, according to a statement released on Sept. 1. Officials did not release any details regarding the second death.

"While adults over 60 and those with chronic health conditions are most at risk for serious complications of West Nile virus, young healthy individuals can also get severe disease," officials said in a statement.

This news comes days after Pinal County reported their first human case of the virus this year.

The virus is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Only 1 in 5 people with the virus will show symptoms, which include fever, headache, body aches and muscle weakness.

The most severe forms of the illness can cause brain inflammation, vision loss, paralysis and other neurological conditions.

Is a busy monsoon season partly to blame?

One of the reasons why health experts think there's been such a big jump is because of the busy monsoon season the state experienced.

Heavy monsoons this summer have led to plenty of moisture in the ground. That, along with warm weather makes the perfect combination for mosquitos.

Those mosquitos are breeding grounds for diseases like the West Nile Virus.

Dr. Sarah Scott, an epidemiologist with the Maricopa County Dept. of Public Health, says, "Surely some of the rainfall we have had is contributing to the higher case counts that we've seen."

While this year's case numbers are much higher than last year, they are in line with the state's averages over the last decade, which is 40 to 150 cases per year.

"I think there's probably a few reasons that happened. One being that we had less rainfall and I think people were also less likely to seek medical care if they were having a mild illness given what was going on in the pandemic," Scott explained.

Still, Maricopa County Environmental Services says it's treating several mosquito hotspots across the Valley. Recently, it found 8,000 mosquitos in one trap.

"We assess the situation there every week. We deploy over 800 traps to see what the situation is to treat those areas," said Johnny Dilone with Maricopa County Environmental Services.

Maricopa County Public Health provided the following tips for avoiding mosquito bites:

  • Use insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, or other EPA-registered repellants according to the product label on exposed skin and clothing
  • Drain and remove containers that hold water from around the home where mosquitoes can breed, such as pet bowls, buckets, etc.
  • Scrape the sides of the dish or inside potted plants where mosquitoes lay their eggs
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens, no holes, and remain closed
  • If it’s not too hot, wear lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs
  • Ensure that swimming pools and decorative water features are properly maintained

More info:

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