DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A man in his 60s with an underlying health condition has died from the West Nile virus in Dallas, the city's first fatality connected to it this year.
Dallas County officials said the man lived in the 75204 zip code, which is a 2.5 square mile swath northeast of downtown that includes Uptown and parts of East Dallas.
The victim is exactly the portrait experts paint of the type of person at the greatest risk of contracting the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, severe symptoms caused by West Nile are rare. Residents older than 50 are most susceptible to the virus, which can cause fever, headache, neck stiffness, muscle weakness and tremors.
During an afternoon press conference, Dallas County health officials warned this could be the worst summer for the virus yet. It's shown up earlier than normal because the relatively mild winter failed to kill the bugs off.
Spring showers have provided plenty of standing water across the region for mosquitoes to lay their eggs in. Health officials say the pests can grow from egg to adult in as little as a week.
"A lot of Dallas County residents are taking the prevention seriously, but a lot of neighbors are not," said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. "Those bird baths, the standing water, again, are creating some of the issues we're seeing here, so we're asking for a neighborhood response to really deal with the fact that we're at the epicenter of the West Nile virus."
Part of the concern is in foreclosed homes. Many abandoned and foreclosed homes come with swimming pools. Some are routinely cleaned by the banks that own them, but others have gone unattended and now provide the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, Thompson said.
"We need to make sure that lenders are checking on these foreclosed homes," he said, "especially if there are swimming pools."
The city will spray south Oak Cliff and North Dallas for mosquitoes overnight Wednesday. North Oak Cliff will be sprayed overnight Monday. So far this summer, the Dallas County Health Department has confirmed eight cases of West Nile in a human and 42 cases found in mosquito pools within the city limits.
The county's racked up 16 human cases.
Currently, Thompson and other health officials are equating this early onset of West Nile cases to the summer of 2006. Four North Texans died then of complications related to the virus.
They're reiterating the need for prevention: Stay inside at dawn and dusk or wear pants and long sleeves, use mosquito repellant with the insecticide DEET and get rid of any pools of standing water outdoors.
Here's a graphic showing which zip codes have had a positive confirmation of West Nile so far.
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