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West Nile's in Stanislaus, and it's early

Stanislaus County health officials Wednesday reported the first case of West Nile illness this year, a 47-year-old Modesto-area woman who came down with mild symptoms.

She is the second person to test positive for the mosquito-borne virus in California this year. Tulare County had the first case and the virus has been detected in at least 20 counties in the state.

The woman was not hospitalized and is recovering, according to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency. Her name was not released.

County health officials are concerned the positive test came so early in the summer. It is 10 days earlier than the first case last year and more than three weeks earlier than in 2006.

"This early infection is a sign that we will have an extended season of risk for West Nile virus this year," said Dr. John Walker, county public health officer.

Most people who become infected with the virus don't have the symptoms, which can include headaches, body aches, fever and fatigue. In rare cases, people are stricken with serious nervous system disorders, long-term illness or death.

The Modesto-area woman tested positive when donating blood and later came down with symptoms.

Lloyd Douglas, general manager of the East Side Mosquito Abatement District, said that before the woman tested positive, district personnel had been to her home just east of Modesto to treat the pasture for mosquitoes. She told officials she spends a lot of time outdoors and had been bitten by mosquitoes in different areas of the county.

The district was trapping for mosquitoes just east of Modesto and planned to do ground spraying if a significant number of bugs are detected. As of Tuesday, the West Nile virus has shown up in six dead birds in Stanislaus County and 15 in San Joaquin County.

The county's two mosquito abatement districts were spraying to minimize exposure to mosquitoes in parks and places where people may gather for the Fourth of July.

Officials advise people to use insect repellent, wear clothes that reduce skin exposure, make sure their doors and windows have tight-fitting screens, and eliminate water in flower pots and rain gutters.

Jerry Davis, general manager of the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District, said the warm weather that began in mid-May created conditions for an early emergence of West Nile virus. He said the Turlock district was targeting spraying at parks with storm basins in Turlock, Ceres, Hughson and Newman. Spraying also was planned in and around Grayson early today.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.

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