Health

Suspected West Nile Virus Death Reported in San Diego

A 71-year-old man from the San Carlos neighborhood of San Diego is believed to have died from West Nile virus, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

Testing by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) came back today as inconclusive. Initial lab testing at the man’s hospital indicated West Nile virus as the suspected cause.  The CDPH lab results today were unable to classify the death as a confirmed West Nile virus case, so it will remain listed as a suspected case.

The man was admitted to a local hospital on October 9 with a fever, headache, and weakness. He died on October 28.  

“This is a very unfortunate death and serves as a strong reminder that West Nile virus can be deadly and is still active in our community,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H, County public health officer. “It’s important that the public continue taking precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, which transmit West Nile and other viruses.”

This would be the second death from West Nile virus in San Diego County and the eleventh case of West Nile virus infection reported this year. Nine of the reported cases have been confirmed by the CDPH lab. The County Department of Environmental Health Vector Control is also reporting 30 birds have tested positive for West Nile virus in 2014.

Only two human cases of West Nile virus were reported in San Diego between 2010 and 2013, with both of those cases occurring in 2012. The highest number of cases occurred in 2008 when 36 were reported in San Diego.

RELATED: State Confirms La Mesa Man Died from West Nile Virus

West Nile virus is carried by mosquitoes.  The County Department of Environmental Health Vector Control conducted inspections in the vicinity of where the human cases were reported to check for potential areas of mosquito breeding and treated any mosquito breeding located. Vector Control also set up traps in those areas and sent notifications to residents with information on mosquito breeding prevention, personal protective measures and reporting information.

Of those individuals who become infected with West Nile virus, 80 percent will have no symptoms. Most of those who do get sick have mild symptoms of headache, fever, nausea, fatigue, skin rash or swollen glands. One in 150 of those infected with the virus will have serious neurologic complications that can be life threatening. The risk of complications increases for those over age 50 and people with weakened immune systems.

California is experiencing the highest numbers of West Nile virus cases in nearly a decade. The California Department of Public Health has reported 22 West Nile virus-related fatalities across the state in 2014, including six in Orange County and three in Los Angeles County. 

Health officials urge the public to protect itself by practicing “Prevent, Protect, Report.”

  • Prevent Mosquito Breeding: Dump out or remove any backyard item that can hold water, such as plant saucers, rain gutters, buckets, garbage cans, toys, old tires and wheelbarrows. Mosquito fish may be used to control mosquito breeding in backyard water sources such as unused swimming pools, ponds, fountains and horse troughs.
  • Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites: Protect yourself from WNV by staying inside when mosquitoes are most active, between dusk and dawn. Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors. Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of eucalyptus or IR3535 when outside. Make sure screens on windows and doors are in good condition and secured.
  • Report Dead Birds and Green Swimming Pools: Please report dead crows, ravens, jays, hawks and owls, and green pools to the Vector Control Program online or by using the “Fight the Bite” app.

For more information about West Nile virus, go to San Diego County’s “Fight the Bite” website.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact