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West Nile Virus Confirmed in Death of Ophir Woman

October 22, 2014

(Note: Placer County cannot identify or provide detailed information about the deceased.) 

Placer County health officials are able to confirm that an Ophir woman, who passed away earlier this month, did indeed have West Nile Virus (WNV). They previously were only able to indicate it was a probable case, but upon completion of the communicable disease investigation, they are now considering this a confirmed case of WNV. 

The deceased, a woman in her 80s, was the first person to die with confirmed WNV in Placer County since 2012. There have been a total of 608 confirmed human cases and 20 WNV-related deaths reported in California this year. There have now been 5 confirmed cases of WNV in Placer County, and county health officials expect that they may see a few more confirmed cases of WNV in the near future.

“We were very sad to hear of the tragic death of this respected member of our community,” said Placer County Health Officer Dr. Rob Oldham. “This is a sad reminder that West Nile Virus can be a threat, even in the last weeks of summer.”

The risk of serious illness to most people from WNV is low. However, some individuals – less than 1 percent – can develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. People 50 years of age and older have a higher chance of getting sick and are more likely to develop complications. Recent data also indicate that those with diabetes and/or hypertension are at greatest risk for serious illness. WNV has become fairly common throughout California and most regions of the United States. But fortunately deaths associated with West Nile are still rare.

West Nile virus is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito, usually in the two weeks before illness.

“This tragic death should remind us all that West Nile can be very serious, and that we all need to take precautions to limit our potential exposure to it,” said Joel Buettner, General Manager of the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District.

California’s West Nile virus website, West Nile, includes the latest information on West Nile virus activity in the state.

The Placer County Health and Human Services Department and the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District recommend that individuals prevent exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile virus by practicing the “Three Ds”:

1. DEET – Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 according to label instructions. Repellents keep the mosquitoes from biting you. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.

2. DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes bite in the early morning and evening so it is important to wear proper clothing and repellent if outside during these times. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep mosquitoes out. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.

3. DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flower pots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls. If you know of a swimming pool that is not being properly maintained, please contact the district at 888-768-2343.

Horses are vulnerable to West Nile virus, and the mortality rate for unvaccinated horses is very high. Owners should contact their veterinarians about protective immunizations. West Nile does not spread between humans and horses.

Residents are encouraged to report all dead birds and dead tree squirrels on the state website or by calling toll-free 1-877-WNV-BIRD (968-2473).

For more information about WNV, call Placer County Community Health at 530-889-7141 or visit the state of California's website on West Nile.

For information about mosquitoes and mosquito-control efforts, contact the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District at 888-768-2343 or visit PlacerMosquito.  

 

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