County sees first human case of West Nile |

County sees first human case of West Nile

Staff reports

Health officials announced Monday the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus in El Dorado County, bringing the total number of human cases in California this year close to 600.

Nine people have died of the disease this year in California.

A woman who lives on the West Slope was diagnosed with the virus late last week and is recovering. Authorities would only say the woman was younger than 50.

People older than 50 are more likely to develop serious illness from West Nile virus.

Transmitted by mosquitoes, the virus will be less of a threat now in Tahoe because of recent freezing temperatures, said Ginger Huber, Tahoe Division manager for El Dorado County Environmental Management. But people should still take precautions while traveling.

“We’ve seen great cooperation with the public,” Huber said. “They have been calling in dead birds routinely at Tahoe, and contacting our office when they’ve seen mosquito problems.”

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Since the disease is new to California – this is its second season – it is hard to predict. Authorities wanted to be proactive in educating the public on prevention, Huber said.

Avoiding mosquito bites by using DEET-containing bug repellent, or long-sleeved clothing, is the most effective prevention. It is also important to remove standing water sources around homes.

Health officials have recently confirmed the first case in the county involving a horse.

Less than 1 percent of people who contract the virus will get severely ill, according to the Web site, which provides the latest statistics on the virus in California.

Yet last year, there were 2,448 human cases of West Nile in the United States, including 84 deaths. In 2003, there were more than 10,000 human cases of West Nile, resulting in 262 deaths.

Thirty-four dead birds have tested positive for the virus this year in the county. Most infected birds have been identified in the western portion of the county.

There is no vaccine against West Nile Virus for humans, and no known cure.