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OC Woman, 61, Dies Of West Nile Virus; First In County Since ’08

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SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A 61-year-old Orange County woman died last week from West Nile virus, making her the county’s first such fatality since 2008.

KNX 1070’s Jan Stevens reports the woman reportedly suffered for several weeks from the disease.

Dr. Matthew Zahn, Medical Director of Disease Control at the Orange County Health Care Agency, said the victim suffered from West Nile Neuro-invasive Disease, which is a more severe form of the infection.

Zahn said while there are a variety of preventative measures the public can take, there is currently no specific treatment for West Nile.

“We know that there are different ways to treat people who have serious illness from it, but there is not an antibiotic or antiviral treatment to specifically treat West Nile,” he said. “The best way to deal with West Nile remains prevention.”

While mosquito season is primarily during the summer and fall seasons, Zahn said, the most effective ways to prevent West Nile virus is by wearing mosquito repellant, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and clearing out any standing water around your home.

But Zahn warned even those steps may not be adequate enough to protect against what can for some become a dangerous and even deadly disease.

“Less than 1 percent of people who become infected with the virus will have more severe disease, that’s usually brain infection, encephalities or meningitis,” Zahn said. “Why some people will get severe disease while most people have no symptoms at all is not entirely known.”

There have been 39 reported cases and six blood donors testing positive for West Nile infection in Orange County, which has seen its highest numbers since 2008, when there were 79 total infections and three deaths.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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