California reports first West Nile death since mosquito-borne disease arrived last year

Friday, July 23rd 2004, 6:10 am
By: News On 6

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ A 57-year-old man died from the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, becoming California's first human fatality from the illness since it arrived in the state last year, officials said.

The man died June 24 and is believed to have contracted the virus in Orange County where he lived, Robert Miller, a spokesman for the California Department of Health Services, said Thursday.

The cause of death was confirmed Wednesday. He was admitted to a hospital June 17 with symptoms of encephalitis.

The man had a number of risk factors for developing serious complications from West Nile, including a number of long-term health conditions that may have weakened his immune system, said county health officer Dr. Mark Horton.

There have now been 35 human cases of West Nile statewide this year.

``We're in for a significant West Nile season in California,'' said state public health officer Dr. Richard Jackson. ``I would be surprised if this is the last death we have in the state.''

The disease has sickened nearly 200 people across the nation so far this year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has reported four other deaths from the disease so far this year _ two in Arizona and one each in Texas and Iowa.

Many people who come down with West Nile are unaffected, but others show flu-like symptoms. Less than 1 percent get very seriously ill with conditions such as meningitis or encephalitis.