The West Nile virus season began Thursday with four confirmed human cases of the mosquito-borne disease in Maricopa County, including at least one in the East Valley.
The county Department of Public Health reported three full-blown cases of the virus and another infection detected in a woman who gave blood at a West Valley donation site.
The three people who exhibited symptoms — a 47-year-old woman and two men ages 53 and 74 — are all recovering from the virus, county health officials said. The blood donor did not have any noticeable symptoms, but the virus was detected in her donated blood during a standard testing procedure.
Department spokeswoman Jeanene Fowler said the specific locations of those infected were not being released to protect their privacy, but she said at least one of the people lives in the East Valley.
They were the first laboratory-confirmed human cases of West Nile virus infection in the county this year, according to the department. Last year, the county reported 79 confirmed West Nile virus cases and four deaths.
The virus, which also afflicts birds and horses, is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. About 20 percent of those infected with the virus experience flulike symptoms that occur three to 15 days after the mosquito bite.
Symptoms may include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands and skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. A small percentage of those infected get meningitis, encephalitis, paralysis, and can even die. People older than 50 are generally at a higher risk for severe symptoms.
Fowler said because of the recent rainfall, Valley residents should be vigilant about eliminating mosquitobreeding areason or around their property.
“Do a little inventory of your backyard and get rid of any standing water, because those mosquitoes can breed pretty quickly,” she said.
To learn more
For information on the West Nile virus, public health assistance, dead bird drop-off locations or to report green pools or file any mosquito-related complaint, call (602) 506-0700 or visit www.maricopa.gov/wnv