A Kern County resident has died of West Nile virus, Kern County Public Health Services Department officials announced Friday.
The death is one of three statewide. The other two died in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. State public health officials withheld demographic information, hospitals providing care or more precise regions where the infections occurred, citing patient privacy laws.
“This serves as a reminder that the threat of West Nile virus should be taken seriously,” Kern County Public Health Services Director Matt Constantine said. “We strongly encourage residents to protect themselves and family members from mosquitoes.”
West Nile virus, an arthropod-borne virus, is transmitted through mosquitos, which contract the virus through birds they feed on. The risk of serious illness in most is low, however less than one percent of infected individuals can develop neurological illnesses including encephalitis and meningitis, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Vector Control District and Public Health officials have predicted they would see an uptick in cases this year after heavy rainfall in the winter rushed through the Kern River, filling once-dry aquifers, banks and basins.
Kern County has recorded 10 confirmed human cases this year – the third highest statewide behind Los Angeles, which recorded 39, and San Bernardino, which had 12.
There have been 87 total human cases statewide, and 239 dead birds.
“West Nile virus can cause a deadly infection in humans, and the elderly are particularly susceptible,” CDPH Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said.
Peak infection months are September and August during warmer weather. Risk of exposure decreases as cooler temperatures kill most mosquitoes or send them into hibernation.
“We urge everyone to take every possible precaution to protect themselves against mosquito bites,” Smith said.