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Health department confirms first human case of West Nile in 2012

POSTED June 18, 2012 12:23 p.m.

A 70-year-old woman in Kern County is the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus infection in California this year.

The woman was hospitalized, but is now recovering reported Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health.

 "This first confirmed West Nile virus case reminds us that we must take precautions to protect ourselves and our families from mosquito bites,” said Chapman. “West Nile virus activity is greatest during the summertime.”

 West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals by the bite of an infected mosquito. The risk of serious illness to most people 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 indicates that those with diabetes and/or hypertension are at greatest risk for serious illness.

 To date in 2012, West Nile virus has been detected in 15 California counties, including Stanislaus and Merced. The presence of the West Nile virus was detected in Stanislaus County earlier this month, after health officials reported a dead bird tested positive for the virus. The dead bird was found in Modesto, according to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency. This is the first positive result in Stanislaus County for the year.

Last year there were 158 reported human cases and nine deaths in the state. There were 11 confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in Stanislaus County in 2011, making it one of the more active West Nile virus regions in the state, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Health and mosquito abatement officials have been taking steps to control the mosquito population. Officials are asking residents to play their part by checking their property for standing water and telling their local mosquito abatement district if they are being bitten by mosquitoes.

To report a dead bird, call the California State hotline at 1-877-WNV-BIRD or report it online at www.westnile.ca.gov. Birds of particular interest to the state are crows, ravens, magpies, jays and raptors (hawk or eagle).

To report mosquito-breeding problem areas, Stanislaus County residents should contact one of the two mosquito abatement districts that serve the county. For Stanislaus County addresses north of the Tuolumne River residents should call the Eastside Mosquito Abatement District at 522-4098. All others should contact the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District at 634-1234.

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