mosquito in color

FLORENCE — Two people died recently in Pinal County from West Nile virus, the county environmental health department reported Wednesday.

They are the first deaths from the virus reported so far this year. In both of the two cases, the victims were over 80 years of age with comorbidities.

Health officials said 2021 has proven to be the harshest West Nile year in Pinal County’s history. The county has seen 46 confirmed cases so far, with a further 61 potential cases under investigation. This is consistent with what has been seen across Arizona after a wet monsoon season that allowed the mosquitoes that spread the disease to proliferate, Pinal County Health said.

While temperatures are dropping and there has been less rainfall this month, health officials warn the dangers of West Nile virus are still present.

“This has been an unusually challenging West Nile virus season,” said Chris Reimus, division manager for Environmental Health. “Even though it is cooling down and the season is coming to an end, it is important that people remain vigilant in avoiding mosquitoes and preventing mosquito breeding.”

West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. It is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. Cases of West Nile occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall.

West Nile virus can cause a mild illness that lasts for a few days or a more serious condition that affects the central nervous system. The risk of developing a more serious disease increases with age, compromised immune status and presence of comorbidities.

Arizona has an above-average incidence of neuroinvasive disease caused by West Nile virus at greater than 0.75 case per 100,000 population.

“If you have had a recent mosquito exposure and experience symptoms like fever, fatigue, joint pains, stiff neck or altered mental state, please consult your health care provider,” the county health department said in a press release.

The health department advises that steps can be taken to help prevent the spread of West Nile virus by not allowing mosquitoes to breed:

  • Remove standing water, even in flower pots and dog bowls
  • Keep swimming pools in operable condition
  • If you must be outside when mosquitoes are present (most active at dawn and dusk), wear long-sleeve clothing and an EPA-approved and CDC-recommended mosquito repellant such as DEET or picaridin.
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