Placer County sees first West Nile death in years

Granite Bay man, 74, a dedicated volunteer
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Howard Stoltz of Granite Bay became the first human fatality in Placer County from complications of the West Nile virus in at least six years – a sad but not surprising result of a record season for the virus this year, said Ada Barros Heiser, Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District public information officer. Stoltz, who dedicated much of his time volunteering, died Saturday. He was 74. He joined the Placer County Sheriff’s Office’s volunteer team in 1999 and has documented about 5,000 volunteer hours with that department alone. “He just went above and beyond as a volunteer, and we just really loved him at the sheriff’s office,” said Dena Erwin, public information officer for the sheriff’s office. “We’ll miss his smile he has a wonderful spirit and … a true heart for service. He just loved helping people in his retirement.” Stoltz is the fifth human death in California linked to West Nile this year. The state reports 92 cases of humans infected with the virus this year, with five of those in Placer County. “There’s not an abundance of mosquitoes higher than normal, but the percentage of mosquitoes infected is much higher this year,” Heiser said. The number of infected mosquitoes statewide out of a thousand is 12 this year compared to 3.8 last year, a rate California hasn’t seen since at least 2005, she said. Although the West Nile virus, transmitted by a mosquito bite, has a low risk of serious illness for most people, less than 1 percent of people infected can develop a neurological illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis, according to a press release issued by Placer County. Those 50 years or older have a higher chance of becoming ill and developing complications. Mosquito and vector control will conduct ground treatments in Sheridan, Roseville and Lincoln this morning followed by air treatments over the county’s western agricultural areas tonight and Saturday night, Heiser said. Placer County Deputy Sheriff Shawn Rosner said he and Stoltz founded the non-profit Foothills K-9 Association. Rosner, now the association’s president, said Stoltz played an integral role in its success, serving at different times as a board director and president. Rosner said the association’s Sept. 23 fundraiser will be renamed in his honor.