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The Valley

West Nile Linked to Valley Death

August 11, 2004|Regine LaBossiere | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services confirmed Tuesday that a 91-year-old Northridge woman who died last week was a victim of West Nile virus.

Hester Martin died early Friday in a convalescent home after being bitten by mosquitoes at her son's home in Northridge, family members said.

Martin was the first of two women in the state to die from West Nile virus. On Monday, the illness claimed the life of an 88-year-old Long Beach woman, according to the city's Department of Health and Human Services.

Four people have been killed by the disease in California, all in Southern California and all this year. Health officials expect more infections and deaths as the virus spreads across the state this summer.

Humans contract West Nile virus from mosquitoes, which feed on infected birds. Most people never know they have become infected. About 20% feel flu-like symptoms, which include fever, rash, headaches and weakness. About one in 150 develop encephalitis or meningitis, and less than 1% of those infected die from the illness.

So far this year, 109 human cases of West Nile have been reported in California. About half involved people 50 or older, officials said. Most of the younger people to contract the virus have recovered relatively quickly.

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