San Diego County officials Friday reported two probable human cases of West Nile virus in the region, including one fatality.
A 79-year-old San Diego woman and an 80-year-old Santee woman were hospitalized late last month with symptoms of encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can be caused by viral or bacterial infection, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. The agency said the San Diego woman died Tuesday and the Santee woman is recovering.
Testing to confirm West Nile virus in both cases will be performed next week by the California Department of Public Health. If confirmed, they would be the second and third area residents diagnosed with WNV.
Since West Nile virus is carried by mosquitoes, the county Department of Environmental Health Vector Control Program conducted inspections in the vicinity of where the cases were reported to check for potential breeding areas. Traps were also set up and notices were sent to residents.
"With the recent heat, you may be spending time outdoors in the early morning or late evening hours, so it's important to protect yourself from mosquitoes with clothing or an effective repellent," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. "And if you open doors and windows to cool off your home, you need screens to keep the insects out."
The one human case of locally acquired West Nile virus confirmed this year was a 73-year-old Del Mar man.
Environmental health workers have found 140 dead birds and 22 batches of mosquitoes this year that tested positive for the virus. Last year, a total of 41 dead birds and six mosquito batches tested positive for the virus.
Eleven county residents were diagnosed with the disease last year, two of whom died.
Health officials said that around 80 percent of people with WNV don't get symptoms, while the remainder will have headaches, fever, nausea, fatigue, a skin rash or swollen glands.
Around one in 150 cases are life-threatening, and the risk goes up for patients over age 50, according to the HHSA.
The best protection is to empty out areas of standing water where mosquitoes breed, stay indoors at dusk and dawn when the insects are most active, and wear long sleeves and pants or use repellent when outdoors.
County officials also urged residents to contact their vector control program when they find dead birds or green swimming pools, by calling (858) 694-2888 or emailing email@example.com.