Four more Arizonans die from West Nile; hospitals see ‘fairly significant’ amount of patients

The summer’s nearly record-setting monsoon season led to a significant increase in mosquitoes that transmit the virus.

Updated: October 1, 2021 - 10:31pm

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Public health authorities announced Friday four more Arizonans have died from complications of the West Nile Virus.

The Arizona Department of Health Services updated its data on West Nile Virus instances Friday, showing the new death total for the summer and fall mosquito season has risen to 14. ADHS also increased the state’s probable and confirmed West Nile Virus case count to 256.

Maricopa County is home to the majority of cases. ADHS data shows 207 of the 256 confirmed and probable cases originated in the state’s most populous county. Neighboring Pinal County has had 34 confirmed or probable cases.

ADHS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about those who died.

The only year Arizona recorded more cases was in 2004, when the state had 391 cases.

The summer’s nearly record-setting monsoon season has led to a significant increase in mosquito population, the primary transmitter of West Nile Virus in the Valley.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people infected with West Nile Virus are asymptomatic. Those who die from the virus commonly succumb to encephalitis, including meningoencephalitis. ADHS lists this as the clinical presentation in 117 of the 256 cases.

HonorHealth confirmed it is seeing hospitalizations for West Nile Virus but refused to say how many.

“HonorHealth is seeing West Nile patients in our facilities,” the hospital system told The Center Square on Tuesday in a statement. “We recommend that our community members use an EPA-registered mosquito repellent and if it’s not too hot, wear clothing covering your body to protect yourself.”

HonorHealth also stressed the importance of eliminating sitting water near the home since mosquitos lay eggs near water.

Dr. Marjorie Bessel, chief clinical officer at Banner Health, responded to questions from reporters Wednesday about West Nile Virus.

“At this time, we really are not having the same experience as some of the other health care systems, where we are aware that they are having some increased cases of West Nile Virus,” she said. “I would ask everybody out there to help us make sure that we remain available, as well as those other health care systems that appear to be having a fairly significant increase of that particular disease.”