Four individuals in California have died as a result of the West Nile Virus, including two Stanislaus County men, according to public health officials.
The two Stanislaus County men were both 65 years of age, the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency reported. Their names and hometowns are not being released. One died on July 27 and the other on Monday.
"We grieve the deaths of these two men", said Dr. John Walker, public health officer. "The WNV season extends into October in Stanislaus County so it is important for residents to continue to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites."
The other two West Nile Virus deaths verified by the California Department of Public Health were that of senior citizen from Sacramento County and an adult from Shasta County.
"These unfortunate deaths remind us that we must protect ourselves from mosquito bites to prevent West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne infections," said Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director and state public health officer. "West Nile virus activity is greatest during the summertime."
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals through a mosquito bite. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds.
In the United States, most people are infected from June through September, and the number of these infections usually peaks in mid-August, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Seasonal outbreaks often occur in local areas that can vary from year to year. For example, Stanislaus County had at least one human case reported in October 2011.
Approximately 1 in 5 people who are infected with West Nile virus will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Less than 1 percent will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die, according to the CDC. People over 50 years of age and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and organ transplants, are at greater risk for serious illness.
In addition to the two deaths in Stanislaus County, the health services agency is reporting seven individuals have the neuro-invasive form of the virus, three individuals have tested positive for West Nile Fever, and four cases of asymptomatic blood donors for a total of 14 human cases. The age range of symptomatic cases is from 33 to 72 years old.
All blood donors are screened for the West Nile Virus to ensure that the blood supply remains safe for those needing transfusions and that it is not transmitted via blood transfusions.
To date in 2014, West Nile virus has been detected in 36 California counties.
CDPH recommends that individuals prevent exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile virus by practicing the "Three Ds:"
1. DEET - Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, 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 out mosquitoes. 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 your local mosquito and vector control agency.
The East Side and Turlock Mosquito Abatement Districts are treating mosquito habitats using ground and aerial spray equipment and are doing aerial surveillance photography for neglected swimming pools.
The Districts provide mosquito fish, free of charge, to put in ornamental ponds and other backyard locations. To report mosquito-breeding problem areas, residents should contact one of the two mosquito abatement districts that serve the county. For areas north of the Tuolumne River, residents should call the Eastside Mosquito Abatement District at 522-4098 (www.eastsidemosquito.com) all others should contact the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District at 634-1234 (turlockmosquito.org). Reporting and testing of dead birds also helps in locating areas needing treatment for West Nile Virus. To report a dead bird, call the California State hotline at 1-877-WNV-BIRD or online at www.westnile.ca.gov.