Two elderly men in Maricopa County have died after contracting West Nile virus, the county's Department of Public Health announced Friday.
Both victims were in good health prior to infection and were residents from different parts of the Valley. "These recent cases remind us that West Nile virus is still out there, and that West Nile virus infection can sometimes be deadly," said Dr. Bob England, Director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
They are Arizona's first West Nile deaths of 2011.
Last year, Maricopa County saw a concentration of cases in the East Valley. This year, West Nile virus cases are occurring throughout the Valley. There have been 23 reported human cases of the disease.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus can cause severe illness in people and horses, although only about 20 percent of those infected will develop flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, body aches, and muscle weakness.
Some people, especially the elderly, may experience more severe symptoms including high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, and/or encephalitis or inflammation of the brain, which can lead to paralysis or death.
West Nile virus was first found in Arizona in 2003. Since then, over 1,000 human cases have been reported. The worst year was 2004 with 391 human cases and 16 deaths. Last year, there were 166 human cases of West Nile in Arizona and 14 deaths.
Michelle Reese, East Valley Tribune