A Phoenix man in his 90s has become the season’s first fatality from the West Nile virus.
His death follows a late summer spike in the number of human cases of the deadly mosquito-borne disease.
Maricopa County has recorded 55 cases of West Nile so far this year, compared with 44 confirmed cases by this time last year, according to the county’s Department of Public Health.
In nearly two-thirds of cases the virus has been severe, leading to encephalitis or meningitis.
“Even though it seems that our first death is coming late in the season, we are on track to not only see more cases this year, but more cases with the worst types of West Nile,” said Dr. Bob England, the county’s public health director.
West Nile cases came late last summer, too. By October 2006, the virus had infected 150 people and killed six county residents and 11 across the state.
In 2005, there were 106 human cases and four deaths. The worst year so far in Arizona was 2004, with 391 cases and 16 deaths.
Most people bitten by infected mosquitoes won’t develop any symptoms, about 20 percent will have flulike symptoms, and fewer than 1 percent will develop encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.
Those most at risk are the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
Reduce chance of bite:
• Stay indoors from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
• Wear loose-fitting clothing, long sleeves and long pants.
• Apply insect repellent containing DEET to clothing as well as exposed skin.
• Do not use insect repellent on children under 2.
In your yard:
• Don’t allow water to stand for more than two days.
• Check for standing water in birdbaths, pet dishes, buckets, cans, outdoor toys, wheelbarrows, old tires, boats and flower pots.
• Clear leaves and twigs from eaves, troughs and gutters.
• Fill in low areas in lawns.
• Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets, as well as damaged window and door screens.
• Let neighbors know about potential mosquito breeding grounds on their property, or report stagnant water to the county at (602) 506-6616.
For information, to report a mosquito problem or to get free mosquito-eating fish, contact Maricopa County Vector Control, (602) 506-0700, or go to www.maricopa.gov/wnv.
You can also find information online at www.westnileaz.com or call a 24-hour hot line at (800) 314-9243 or (602) 364-4500.