West Nile virus claims life of Contra Costa woman
By Jeff Shuttleworth / Brigid Gaffikin, Bay City News Service
August 24, 2006
Contra Costa County Public Health Director Dr. Wendel Brunner
said this morning that the Bay Area's first human victim of West
Nile virus, an elderly Contra Costa County woman, died "some
days ago" but health officials didn't confirm until Wednesday
that the mosquito-borne virus was to blame.
Brunner said the elderly woman lived in central Costa Costa County
but he declined to specify which city, saying, "We want to
protect the privacy of the patient and her family."
Two other people in the central county have become ill after
contracting the virus, Brunner said.
He said the woman who died contracted the virus from an infected
mosquito's bite, which is how it is always transmitted to humans.
West Nile virus is not spread by person-to-person contact, he
Craig Downs, general manager of the Contra Costa County Mosquito
and Vector Control District, joined Brunner at a news conference
this morning to announce that his agency would spray 6,600 acres
along the waterfront from Martinez to Pittsburg at dusk in an
effort to kill mosquitoes.
The woman's death is a first for Contra Costa County and the
Bay Area, and it marks the second West Nile-related fatality in
California this year. The state's first human death blamed on
the virus this year was on Aug. 17, when an elderly Butte County
woman died after contracting it.
In 2005, 19 people died after being infected with West Nile virus,
according to Michelle Mussuto, a spokeswoman for the California
Department of Health Services.
California has seen 49 deaths since 1999, when the virus was
first detected, Mussuto said.
On Aug. 15, health officials announced that a 65-year-old Saratoga
man had contracted the first confirmed human case of West Nile
virus this year in the Bay Area.
Another two human cases of the virus have been reported in Solano
Elderly people are more at risk of developing deadly symptoms,
but around 80 percent of people who are infected by West Nile
virus don't even know it, according to health officials.
Up to 20 percent of people who become infected exhibit symptoms
such as fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, body aches and sometimes
swollen lymph glands or rash on the chest, stomach or back, according
to Contra Costa Health Services.
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