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State reports first '07 West Nile virus death

July 14, 2007|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

An elderly Kern County woman has died from complications of West Nile, the first death in the state from the virus this year, public health officials said Friday.

The virus, spread by infected mosquitoes, is of greatest danger to those older than 50, or people with diabetes and hypertension.

The California Department of Public Health did not release information about the woman, but the Bakersfield Californian reported she was 96.

"This unfortunate death reminds us that we must take precautions to protect ourselves and our families from mosquito bites," said Mark Horton, director of the state Department of Public Health.

The virus has been detected in 30 of California's 58 counties this year. In addition to the death announced Friday, seven people have become ill with West Nile infections in Kern County and one in San Joaquin County.

The virus has also been found in 230 dead birds, 182 mosquito samples, two horses, 13 chickens and three squirrels in California.

Humans and horses are typically infected by mosquito bites. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds and tree squirrels.

Officials recommend using mosquito repellents, ensuring window screens are not torn and eliminating standing water, which supports mosquito breeding. In 2006, the disease killed seven people statewide.

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peter.hong@latimes.com

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