Placer County reported its first West Nile virus death of the season Monday.
A Lincoln man over the age of 65 died late last month, the county said. He is the first Placer County resident to die from West Nile virus in five years.
This season, there have been 286 confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in California and 10 virus-related deaths statewide, according to California Department of Public Health data updated Friday. Placer County has reported six human cases and record numbers of cases among mosquito and dead bird samples, the county said in a news release.
“We’re saddened to learn of this individual’s passing, and extend our sympathies to their loved ones,” said Dr. Rob Oldham, Placer County’s director of Health and Human Services, in a statement. “While we are late in mosquito season, it is a sobering reminder about the importance of taking precautions.”
For most people, West Nile virus does not cause serious illness. However, some people can develop a serious neurological illness like encephalitis or meningitis. Serious illness affects less than 1% of those who contract the virus.
“People 50 years of age and older have a higher chance of getting sick and are more likely to develop complications,” the county said.
West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquito bites. To reduce the risk of exposure, people are encouraged to wear DEET bug repellent, drain standing water and wear appropriate clothing during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
“This season, we saw record numbers of West Nile virus in our mosquito and dead bird population which increases the risk for West Nile virus transmission to humans,” said Joel Buettner, general manager of the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District, in a statement. “This tragic death reminds us that West Nile virus can be a potentially life-threatening disease and we need to take precautions to limit our exposure to mosquito bites.”
The risk of West Nile virus in Placer County is low at this point this season, the county said. County staff have not detected West Nile virus in mosquito or dead bird samples for the last four weeks.