An elderly East Valley man died this month after contracting West Nile Virus, becoming the first human fatality of the year from this disease.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health announced the man’s death Tuesday. Including the death, there have been three human cases of the disease to date this season. The victim had underlying health issues.

West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans from the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes contract the disease typically from sick birds.

In most cases, people don’t feel any impact from West Nile Virus. But in about 20 percent of cases, people will come down with flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and body aches. A small number may develop encephalitis or inflammation of brain, which can lead to paralysis or death.

“This is another example of the seriousness of West Nile Virus,” said Dr. Bob England, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “Especially after the monsoons like we had this weekend, we all need to do our part to get rid of standing water and curb mosquito breeding as best we can.”

With the recent monsoon activity, the department reminds the public to be vigilant about removing standing water from around their homes and property, which is where mosquitoes breed.

“Get out there, get rid of the water. It’s an easy thing to do. You just need to take time to do it,” department spokeswoman Jeanene Fowler said.

Maricopa County does conduct mosquito spraying when area traps are found to have a high number of mosquitoes or if any of those trapped mosquitoes test positive for West Nile Virus. In recent weeks, spraying has been increased in the East Valley, according to alerts sent out to subscribers or posted on the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department website. For information, call (602) 506-0700.

The public can also report “green” pools to the county or other concerns.

“We are seeing a lot of positive mosquito pools and with the continued monsoon, we recognize that the risk for West Nile Virus infection will likely continue into the fall,” said John Kolman, director of Maricopa County Environmental Services Department.

To file a complaint, call (602) 506-6616.

Information can be found online at

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or

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