YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Woman's Death May Be State's 10th W. Nile Fatality

August 26, 2004|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

A 60-year-old woman who contracted West Nile virus died this week in Riverside County, health officials announced Wednesday.

Health officials said that the western Riverside County resident, whose name was withheld for privacy reasons, had a serious underlying health problem and that the West Nile virus may have contributed to her death. If so, her death would be the first in Riverside County related to the illness and the 10th in California.

Statewide, 277 West Nile infections have been reported, according to figures released Tuesday by the California Department of Health Services. The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes that feed on infected birds, was first seen in the U.S. on the East Coast in 1999.

Most infected people do not develop symptoms, but 1% become severely ill with symptoms that can lead to coma, convulsions or death.

Gary Feldman, the county's public health officer, said he expects more deaths from the virus: "The West Nile virus is really firmly established in the region at this point. So I don't see any signs of it abating until mosquito season is over."

Declining temperatures -- which are not expected for several weeks -- will mark the end of the mosquito season, he said.

All of the state's West Nile deaths have occurred in Southern California, and half of those have been in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. San Bernardino County announced its third and fourth fatalities on Tuesday, including a Bataan Death March survivor and a religious leader who spent 14 years in Africa.

Also on Tuesday, a 62-year-old Claremont man who died of complications from the virus was honored as a Green Party activist. Walter Sheasby, whose death from West Nile on Thursday was Los Angeles County's fourth, ran twice for the House of Representatives.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Los Angeles Times Articles