An elderly Orange County woman who died last week had the most severe form of the West Nile virus, tests results have confirmed.
The Seal Beach resident died from complications of the virus, making her the first fatality in the county from the disease this year.
The woman also had underlying medical conditions, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
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She contracted the most severe form of the infection, West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease. Orange County has recorded 40 reports of West Nile Virus to date this year, compared to five last year. Four of the cases were discovered in blood donors as part of a regular screening process, the OCHCA said.
"This unfortunate death shows how serious West Nile Virus infection can be,” said Dr. Eric G. Handler, county health officer, in a statement. “West Nile Virus activity tends to peak in August and September in Orange County, but we continue to have cases occur throughout the fall. It is important for people to remember that the end of summer does not mean the end of West Nile Virus season.”
Officials urged residents to use caution as the season continues, and to take steps to mitigate mosquito breeding and access, including:
- Use insect repellent or lemon eucalyptus oil on children under the age of three to deter mosquito bites.
- Be aware and avoid outdoor activities during peak mosquito hours, which are generally dawn and dusk.
- Wear long sleeves and pants to protect skin when outdoors.
- Drain standing water, empty unused flower pots and pools.
- Keep tight-fitting screens closed.
Orange County has recorded 36 cases of West Nile patients exhibiting symptoms this year.
Vector Control officials say Seal Beach isn't a hotbed of mosquito activity. They've had two positive results from traps set at the Naval Weapons Station. Santa Ana remains the biggest concern, where 22 people have tested positive for West Nile.
The American Red Cross says they've uncovered 4,400 cases of West Nile in donors across the country over the last decade. The blood is usually destroyed.