PHOENIX (KPNX) – The Maricopa County Department of Public Health is urging people to take caution after the first death in the county from West Nile virus was reported Thursday.
The person who died was older and had other health conditions. Health officials say this made them more susceptible to complications from the virus.
So far this season, there have been 27 cases of West Nile in Maricopa County. Last year, there were 24 cases and six deaths.
“This tragic death serves as an important reminder to all of us to do our part in protecting ourselves, our family and our neighborhoods from mosquito-borne diseases,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of the Disease Control Division at Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
West Nile is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches and muscle weakness.
Only one in five of those infected will develop symptoms. About one in 150 cases will become more severe, according to health officials.
Three years ago, Mary Davis was one who did develop symptoms.
“It was horrible,” Davis said. “I was scared being by myself because of the dizziness, the throwing up, and I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t smell and I can’t taste.”
Davis’ daughter, Barbara Egbert said the virus was difficult on her mom.
“It was devastating to see her go through this,” Egbert said. “I mean physically she lost so much weight, her hair was limp and everything about it it was just the weirdest thing that it could effect that much of you.”
While Davis still deals with some symptoms, her and her family urge people to protect themselves.
“Make sure that you’re wearing something that’s going to keep these little buggers away. It’s that important,” Egbert said.
Here are some precautions to take this summer to avoid mosquito bites.
• Avoid mosquito bites day and night
• 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 your home where mosquitoes can breed such as plastic covers, buckets, old tires, plant trays, pet bowls, toys, and boats
• 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 your arms and legs
• Ensure that swimming pools and decorative water features are properly maintained