West Nile Virus in Maricopa County: 70 deaths, 941 cases

PHOENIX, AZ – In 2021, Maricopa County has a record 941 West Nile virus cases and 70 deaths, according to the Department of Health.

This exceeds the previous annual record of 355 cases from 2004, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Health.

And the number could still rise this year, with 498 cases not included in the official census, which is still under review by the health department.

The West Nile virus was first discovered in Arizona in 2003, according to the Arizona Department of Public Health. People get the disease when an infected mosquito bites them. West Nile is not transmitted through person-to-person contact.

Last year there was only one death attributed to West Nile virus and only three cases in Maricopa County, but 2020 was a particularly dry year for Arizona, not conducive to mosquito breeding.

The particularly wet monsoons this summer contributed to the skyrocketing case numbers this year.

Past annual cases of West Nile Virus people include, according to records from the Maricopa County Department of Public Health:

  • 2011: 50 cases and two deaths
  • 2012: 98 cases and four deaths
  • 2013: 52 cases, six deaths
  • 2014: 93 cases and 12 deaths
  • 2015: 62 cases and two deaths
  • 2016: 63 cases and five deaths
  • 2017: 93 cases and six deaths
  • 2018: 24 cases and six deaths
  • 2019: 155 cases and 17 deaths
  • 2020: three cases and one death

The annual reports on the West Nile virus published by the health department only go back to 2011.

The state health department has some tips for avoiding the West Nile virus, the most effective of which is to prevent mosquito bites. You can do this by using an EPA registered insect repellent and using intact screens on windows and doors. Wearing long sleeves and pants can also protect you from bites.

You can prevent mosquitoes from breeding near your home by removing stagnant water where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Even a small amount of stagnant water, such as in a flower pot or an upside-down object holding water, is a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. You can treat stagnant water that you can’t remove with larvicides, usually available at hardware stores, advised the state health department.

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