An elderly woman died today in a Fresno County hospital from complications of West Nile Virus, according to the Fresno Mosquito and Vector Control District.
This is the second death so far, from the 26 cases of the virus reported in California this year, including seven cases in Fresno County, according to Dr. Edward L. Moreno director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health.
Nine WNV deaths occurred last year, out of 158 reported cases, the district reported. Twenty-six confirmed cases of West Nile have been reported so far this year in California, Moreno said. In 2011, the state had 158 reported cases, including nine fatalities.
While 80 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito never get sick, everyone, especially those over 50 years of age and in frail health due to chronic conditions, should take this disease seriously, and take steps to protect themselves, Moreno said.
Moreno told SierraNewsOnline this afternoon that the percentage of people who die after being bitten by an infected mosquito “is very small. … It’s really only a small percentage of people who come down with the serious illness.”
West Nile Virus is mostly an infection that affects birds, Moreno said.
“Birds get it and many of them die from it,” he said. “Mosquitoes bite and feed off an infected bird and they transmit the virus from an infected bird to a healthy bird. And then that bird comes down with West Nile Virus. The mosquitoes that bite birds can bite humans and transmit the virus to us.”
After people are bitten by infected mosquitoes, Moreno explained, one in five will experience mostly mild, flu-like symptoms.
“Maybe fever, and a little headache, weakness, fatigue aches and pains – but about 1 percent of people will get serious infections,” Moreno said.
In those cases, he said, “The virus infects the nervous system and the brain, so they get severe headaches and significant weakness. Some people complain that they’re too weak to walk and they get very, very sick. Those are the ones that have a higher risk of dying.”
Moreno predicts that the danger of contracting the virus will remain high at least through September, and possibly through October, if there’s no hard freeze to kill off the mosquitoes. He encourages residents to be aware of any standing water around their homes, and to get rid of it. This will eliminate some of the breeding grounds mosquitoes favor: warm, stagnant water.
The Fresno Mosquito and Vector Control District recommends that everyone use insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, lemon eucalyptus oil or IR3535 when they’re outside, and in danger of being bitten by mosquitoes that may be infected with West Nile Virus – especially early in the morning and in the evening, when mosquitoes are most active.
The district also advises residents to:
-Install tight-fitting screens on doors and windows, and repair or replace screens with holes.
-Contact your nearest mosquito abatement district to report poorly maintained swimming pools or water features that appear green. Neglected pools are the No. 1 source of mosquito breeding in residential areas.
-Get your free mosquito fish for backyard ponds or horse troughs from your mosquito abatement district.
-Call the district or the sheriff’s office to report dead birds and dead tree squirrels.
For more information or to report dead birds and dead tree squirrels, visit the California Department of Public Health website at www.westnile.ca.gov or call
toll-free 877-WNV-BIRD, or visit the Fresno County Department of Public Health’s website at www.fcdph.org to download an informational brochure.