West Nile virus kills elderly Fresno County woman
An elderly woman is the first person in Fresno County this year to die of complications from West Nile virus, health officials said Tuesday.
It is the second West Nile-related death in California in 2012. An 88-year-old woman from Kern County died earlier this year.
The Fresno County woman had been hospitalized before her death, health officials said. But they declined to provide other information about her, including her age, where she lived or when she died, at the request of family members.
Mosquito-control officials and health officials said the season is far from over, and they urged county residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
“My concern is we still have a few more months to go in the West Nile virus season, and we’re already at seven cases,” said Dr. Edward Moreno, health director and health officer for the Fresno County Department of Public Health.
The Fresno County woman who died was one of six who have developed a serious, neuroinvasive illness this year, Moreno said. A seventh person infected with the virus had a milder illness.
Since West Nile virus first was reported in California in 2003, there have been eight deaths in Fresno County.
Most people bitten by mosquitoes carrying the virus do not become ill or, if they do, have only mild flu symptoms. But about 1% develop severe disease. People older than 50 and with chronic health conditions are most at risk of developing a serious neurological disease, such as encephalitis.
West Nile activity is widespread in the county this year, according to mosquito-control officials. “It’s a very active West Nile year, and it started early,” said Steve Mulligan, manager of the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District, which covers most of Clovis.
“This virus activity could be anywhere, and even though we may not have had a positive mosquito collection in somebody’s neighborhood, (that) does not mean the virus is not there.”
California this year has recorded 26 West Nile cases in 10 counties. Last year, there were 158 cases and nine deaths.
West Nile activity in California is not near the epidemic conditions that have been seen this year in Texas, where health officials have recorded more than 260 human infections and 10 deaths in Dallas County as of Monday. Two more deaths were reported in Houston on Tuesday.
The Texas epidemic is “a reminder to us that West Nile virus is here to stay in the United States and that in any given year, parts of the country can have significant increases in transmission of West Nile virus to humans,” Moreno said.
Mulligan said mosquito control in Texas has included aerial spraying to kill adult mosquitoes. In Fresno and Clovis, the focus has been on controlling breeding sources.
The key is for people to eliminate standing water in backyards and to report abandoned or neglected swimming pools, he said.
Apply according to directions insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535.
Apply repellent in early morning and evening hours when mosquitoes are most active.
Check that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair holes in screens.
Contact mosquito-control officials to report neglected swimming pools or water features that appear green.
Get free mosquito fish for backyard ponds and pools or horse troughs from mosquito-abatement districts. Call (559) 268-6565 or (800) 821-1577 for more information.
Report dead birds at (877) 968-2473.
Source:Fresno County Department of Public Health
By Barbara Anderson