Two human cases of West Nile strike Stanislaus County

kvaline@modbee.comJune 30, 2014 

Stanislaus County is reporting its first two human cases this year of West Nile virus, the potentially fatal disease spread by mosquito bites.

The county’s Health Services Agency reported Monday that a 72-year-old woman and a 36-year-old woman have been infected, according to a news release. The disease typically surfaces during the summer.

Dr. John Walker, county public health officer, said the older woman developed flulike symptoms, while the younger woman developed more serious complications, including difficulty walking. He said the younger woman is recovering at home. One of the women was hospitalized.

Walker declined to provide more information, including the women’s names and hometowns, citing patient confidentiality.

West Nile symptoms include a fever with headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting or rash. Fewer than 1 percent of those infected develop a serious neurological illness with headache, high fever, disorientation, tremors, seizures or paralysis.

The California Department of Public Health is reporting three human cases of West Nile this year – one each in Stanislaus, Tulare and Contra Costa counties. Officials attributed the difference in what the state and Stanislaus County are reporting to timing issues.

Last year, California had 379 reported human cases of the illness, including 15 that resulted in death. Stanislaus County had 18 cases in 2013; none resulted in death.

Walker said people are especially vulnerable when outdoors at dawn or dusk. He strongly advised them to use insect repellent when outside at those times. Other precautions include removing standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs, and making sure door and window screens fit snugly to keep mosquitoes out of homes.

County residents may report mosquito problems to their mosquito abatement district. Residents of Modesto and other communities north of the Tuolumne River may call the East Side Mosquito Abatement District at (209) 522-4098. For everyone else, the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District can be reached at (209) 634-1234.

Officials also ask residents to report dead birds by calling a state hot line at (877) 968-2473. A confirmed case of West Nile in a dead bird helps officials identify areas that need attention to reduce the number of mosquitoes. Officials are especially interested in dead crows, ravens, magpies, jays, hawks and eagles.

As for pets, the University of California at Davis’ Center for Companion Animal Health says it is “very unlikely for healthy dogs or cats to become ill” with the West Nile virus. “Dogs and cats are susceptible to infection, but considerably more resistant to disease than horses, humans and some species of birds,” it says on their website. “Very young and very old cats and dogs, and animals that are immunocompromised for some other reason, are the most likely to show signs of illness.”

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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