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Sacramento County’s West Nile death is the state’s first this year

08/06/2014 11:30 AM

08/07/2014 5:19 AM

The state’s first death from West Nile virus in 2014 occurred last month in Sacramento County.

The 74-year-old woman who succumbed to the disease had a chronic underlying illness and had been hospitalized, county health officials said. She died July 26.

Dr. Olivia Kasirye, health officer for Sacramento County, said there are seven additional cases under investigation. These people may currently have West Nile virus but their diagnoses are not confirmed. The health department is gathering information on those individuals.

West Nile virus, first detected in birds in Sacramento County a decade ago, is transmitted to humans and animals through a mosquito bite. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds.

“This is a very sad outcome, one we had hoped to prevent,” Kasirye said about the Sacramento County death.

A second West Nile death occurred in Shasta County, health officials there confirm.

“Our thoughts are with the family of this person,” said Dr. Andrew Deckert, Shasta County health officer. “This is, unfortunately, an important reminder of how serious West Nile virus can be. Most human cases of West Nile virus tend to happen in the summer months, when mosquitoes are most active, but risk may extend well into the fall until the first frost.”

The last West Nile death in Shasta County occurred in 2006, according to Tim Mapes, a Shasta County community education specialist.

The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District will be spraying the insecticide Trumpet on Wednesday and Thursday nights in Davis and Woodland after an “intense” amount of West Nile virus activity was detected, according to a news release from the district. The district will spray from 8 p.m. to midnight in agricultural areas surrounding the two Yolo County cities included in the spray zone.

Three human cases of West Nile were confirmed in 2004 in Sacramento County, the first year it was detected in the area.

Sacramento County also laid claim to the first West Nile-related death in 2013. A Sacramento man died last June from inflammation of the brain as a result of the virus. He was one of two people in Sacramento County who died of the disease that year. There were three West Nile deaths in the county in 2012.

There are 35 human cases of West Nile in California, 16 of which were reported this week according to the California Department of Public Health.

While 80 percent of those infected with the virus have no symptoms, it is important to take precautions, according to a news release from the Sacramento County Public Health Department. People over 50 years old and those with compromised immune symptoms are at greater risk for getting seriously ill.

The most effective way to prevent contracting West Nile virus:

• Apply insect repellent containing DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
• Make sure windows have tight-fitting screens
• Drain standing water.

About This Blog

Sacramento Bee reporters Cynthia Craft and Sammy Caiola write about community health issues in the Sacramento region. Their work is in conjunction with the California Endowment, a non-profit health foundation created in 1996.

Cynthia H. Craft is The Sacramento Bee's senior writer on health. She graduated from Ohio State University and previously worked at the Los Angeles Times and California Journal. She was a fellow in 2012 at the National Library for Medicine in Washington, D.C. at the National Institute for Health. Reach her at or 916-321-1270. Twitter: @cynthiahcraft.

Sammy Caiola joined The Sacramento Bee as a health reporter in 2014. She is a recent graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, where she was a Top 10 finisher in the William Randolph Hearst College Journalism Awards. Reach her at or 916-321-1636. Twitter: @SammyCaiola.


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