Orange County Woman Dies of Severe Form of West Nile Virus

It was the first West Nile-related death in the county since 2008

An Orange County woman died last week of a severe form of mosquito-borne West Nile Virus infection, the first-such death in the county since 2008.

The County of Orange Health Care Agency on Monday reported the death of a 61-year-old woman. Dr. Matt Zahn, the agency's medical director for epidemiology, said it was not possible to pinpoint where she contracted the virus, as with most cases.

The woman was from Tustin, he said. She died of West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease after an illness of several weeks, the agency said in a press release.

There's no immediate threat to the public, especially since West Nile season is over, Zahn said.

"It's only a reminder that West Nile can be a serious disease," Zahn said.

A total of 39 cases of West Nile Virus infections have been reported in Orange County this year, a figure that is the highest since 2008, the agency said. An additional six blood donors tested positive for the virus.

As of Friday, Los Angeles County, the nation's most populous county, has seen 151 cases this year, according to the California Department of Public Health. The county's Department of Public Health reported 161 cases so far this year.


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The state reported that in 2012, Ventura County has seen only four cases, while Riverside County has had 19, and San Bernardino County has had 30.

There have been 17 West Nile-related deaths in California so far this year, with five in Los Angeles County, one in San Bernardino County and now another in Orange County.

In 2008, Orange County saw 79 infections and three virus-related deaths. Los Angeles County also saw the a higher number of infections -- 170 -- that year, according to county figures.

The highest number of cases in California came in 2004, the first year infections in humans were reported in the state, Zahn said.

Most cases occur in the summer in fall; Orange County this year saw most cases in September and October, with the number dropping significantly in November.

Precautions against the mosquite bites during the virus season include:

  • Emptying all standing water on your property
  • Making sure your window and door screens are in good condition
  • Using and following the instructions for insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or products containing IR3535
  • Limiting outdoor activity at dawn and dusk
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.

Most of those infected to do not become seriously ill. People over 50 years of age and those with certain medical conditions are at increased risk of serious complications from West Nile Virus infection.

More information is available from the Orange County Vector Control District at

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