The West Nile virus has claimed two lives in Stanislaus County, a public health official said Wednesday.
Both victims were 65-year-old men and succumbed to the neuroinvasive form of the illness, said Trudi Prevette, clinical supervisor of communicable disease for the county Health Services Agency. The first death occurred July 27 and the second man died Tuesday, Prevette said.
The agency would not disclose their names, cities of residence or whether they had underlying health conditions.
This summer, the virus spread by mosquito bites has stricken 10 people in Stanislaus County and seven have been hospitalized, Prevette said. The patients have ranged in age from 33 to 72. Four additional cases were blood donors who did not have symptoms.
“The public should be aware this is a health risk,” Prevette said. “They should take the precautions seriously.”
Wednesday, state health officials reported what they said were the first two deaths in California from West Nile illness in 2014 – a 74-year-old woman in Sacramento County on July 26 and an adult in Shasta County.
No current information on the statewide caseload was available on the California Department of Public Health’s West Nile virus website. But local and state officials are predicting an elevated threat from the endemic virus in the next month.
“This area is very hot for West Nile virus,” said David Heft, general manager of the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District. “At this time of year, the virus is very active. If you get bit, there is a good chance the mosquito has it.”
About one in five people infected develop a headache and fever that can last for several weeks. Less than 1 percent suffer life-threatening symptoms, including high fever, disorientation, tremors, seizures, coma and paralysis.
Local vector control districts assumed this would be a bad year for West Nile when dead birds and mosquito samples tested positive earlier in the year than normal. Stanislaus County’s first known case of infection was an adult who became ill June 16.
Heft said he plans to meet with the East Side Mosquito Abatement District to coordinate efforts to control mosquitoes in hopes of reducing the risk to the public. The East Side district has responsibility for Modesto and other communities north of the Tuolumne River; the Turlock district includes areas south of the river.
People can take precautions by using insect repellent and eliminating standing water around their homes. Mosquito problems can be reported to East Side Mosquito Abatement by calling (209) 522-4098 or the Turlock district at (209) 634-1234. To report dead birds, call the state hotline at (877) 968-2473.