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Press Release

First fatal human case of West Nile Virus in Contra Costa

August 24, 2006

West Nile Virus (WNV) has claimed the life of an elderly Contra Costa woman, making her the first person to die of WNV in the county, county health officials announced.

County health officials confirmed the diagnosis Wednesday after the woman died recently at a local hospital. Two other human WNV cases in involving Contra Costa residents also have been reported to the County Health Department. One is a middle-aged woman who was hospitalized and is now in rehabilitation. The other is an elderly man whose case is still being investigated. All three cases this year involve people living in Central Contra Costa County.

WNV is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito and cannot be spread from person-to-person, said Susan Farley, Communicable Diseases Nurse Specialist for the County.

"There is no human vaccine against West Nile Virus but the public can take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites. We are calling on the community to use insect repellent with DEET when outdoors, limit the time spent outside at dawn and dusk, use screens on their windows and doors, and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds by dumping and draining all outside containers holding water," Farley said.

Most people who become infected with WNV won't develop symptoms and won't need to seek care. However, people experiencing severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, confusion, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis should contact their health care provider right away, Farley said. Symptoms usually appear in three to 15 days from a bite by an infected mosquito. Everyone is at risk from WNV, but people over age 50 have the highest risk of getting severely ill.

Last year in Contra Costa County, there were 11 human cases reported but no deaths. Statewide this year, there have been two deaths and 84 human cases of WNV reported. The state's first WNV death this year was reported in Butte County.

The public can get information about WNV symptoms, prevention and testing from the County Health Department's Health Emergency Information Line, 1-888-959-9911 or its website at

The Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District also is spraying in selected locations to control mosquito populations. Vector Control identified 13 pools of infected mosquitoes and 46 infected dead birds this year in the county. In Contra Costa, free mosquito fish are available to stock residential ponds through Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control (925-685-9301.)

The public also can report dead birds, which can carry West Nile virus, by submitting a report online at or calling 877-WNV-BIRD (968-2473).

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Press Contact
  • Susan Farley, PHN, CCHS
  • 925-313-6796
  • Deborah Bass, CCMVCD
  • 925-685-9301, ext. 112