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State's W. Nile death toll hits 14

The state has recorded its 14th death from West Nile virus.

Health officials said an Amador County resident over age 65 died of complications from the mosquito-borne illness after being hospitalized with signs of neurological damage.

"This person had a defective immune system and was susceptible to infection," said Dr. Bob Hartmann, Amador County Health Officer, in a statement. "This is a tragic reminder of the seriousness of West Nile virus infection."

Citing privacy concerns for the victim's family, neither state nor county health officials would disclose the gender of the victim, city of residence, age, date of death or any other details about the person's struggle with the illness.

The death occurred as West Nile infection rates are waning in California. State data show human West Nile infections surged in August, then began to decline in early September, a couple of weeks after the disease peaked in 2004.

Last year, when California led the country in West Nile infections, 830 people were diagnosed with the disease and 27 residents died. Most cases were in Southern California.

So far this year, 680 human infections have been recorded, mostly in Northern and Central California. Sacramento County has led the state in numbers of infections, with 155 as of Tuesday. The county has logged one death, that of a 90-year-old Delta man.

While infection rates have slowed statewide, health officials continue to warn that the virus is still circulating and that mosquito bites can still lead to illness.

Only 20 percent of those infected will experience symptoms such as fever, fatigue and body aches, which can last several weeks. Only one in 150 people infected will endure the more serious, neurological side effects of West Nile virus, including meningitis, encephalitis or flaccid paralysis. There is no known treatment for the disease.

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