West Nile Virus has claimed its first life in California in 2012, and its victim was an elderly Bakersfield woman.
The number of West Nile cases usually peaks around mid-August and that spike can last into early fall, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We’re not quite there on the calendar yet, which makes this death and the large number of reported cases of the virus all the more worrisome.
“It’s been a tough year for us,” said Rob Quiring with Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District, which is tasked with destroying breeding grounds for mosquitoes across the county. “A lot of mosquitoes appeared early, and, like I mentioned, we’ve just been playing catch-up.”
Across the nation there have been 241 cases of the virus already. That is the most at this point in the calendar year since 2004.
As a result, mosquito control units nationwide, including Kern County’s, have had a hard time eliminating mosquito breeding grounds, which can pop up almost anywhere.
“It's not just one specific location, so people have to be careful. It doesn't matter where they're at,” said Quiring.
The Bakersfield woman who died was 88 years old. Other details surrounding her identity were not immediately available.
Because of her age she is part of a group considered to be most susceptible to the virus.
That group includes people over the age of 50, those with immune-deficiency problems, diabetics, and those with hypertension.
According to the CDC, about one in every 150 cases of West Nile leads to permanent brain damage or death. About 80 percent of the time, people who contract the virus don’t feel any side effects or experience minor symptoms. About 20 percent of people infected experience vomiting and nausea, but no permanent damage.
But, you’re better off not playing the odds and instead taking steps to prevent contracting the virus by following the “Three D’s.”
The first “D”, said Dr. Claudia Jonah with Kern County Public Health, "stands for 'Defend'."
“We need to use a repellent consistently, whether going outside for a few minutes or several hours,” she said.
The second “D” stands for “Drain,” as in eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed.
“We need to make sure we don't have areas around our house or workplace, where mosquitoes can multiply so we don't have standing water,” said Dr. Jonah.
The third “D” stands for “Dusk/Dawn,” which are the times of day mosquitoes are most active.
“We want to make sure we understand when we could be a risk for being bitten by a mosquito,” said Dr. Jonah. “So at dusk and dawn are the times mosquitoes are really apt to feed and bite.”