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Roseville and Loomis resident contract West Nile virus

By: Joyia Emard, Gold Country News Service
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A 31-year-old Roseville man and a 54-year-old Loomis man have contracted West Nile virus, two of Placer County’s first reported human cases this year, according to Placer County Health and Human Services. “In Placer County, we typically see the first human West Nile case in late summer,” said Dr. Mark Starr, Placer County director of Community Health and Clinics. According to Starr, adults over the age of 50 and those with suppressed or compromised immune systems have a greater risk from the virus and the most serious complications and deaths usually occur in people over age 65. He also said that there are probably more cases of the virus in the community that go unreported. “Most people just think they have the flu,” Starr said. Last year, Loomis resident Jim Crets, then 53, contracted West Nile virus. His wife, Jan Clark,said that her husband remembered being bit by a mosquito in his yard at dusk. “His first symptoms were really bad headaches. Then one night he was shaking and he had a fever of 102 degrees. The next day the fever went to 104 degrees,” Clark said. Clark said her husband was unable to eat or drink and suffered a partially collapsed lung. Even weeks later, he was still experiencing body aches, intermittent fever and fatigue and had trouble concentrating. This year, the virus was first detected in Placer County in mid-July when dead birds tested positive, according to county health and human services officials. West Nile Virus, which is carried by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds, is preventable by avoiding mosquito bites. The incubation period from the time of a bite to signs of illness is three to 12 days. Starr said that most people, about 80 percent, who become infected by the virus will have no symptoms, but for certain populations the disease can cause serious illness and death. Of the 20 percent who do become ill, Starr explained that most will experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms called West Nile fever. The symptoms include fever, a “nasty” headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and sometimes a rash on the torso. The symptoms generally last for just a few days, although they can go on for several weeks. Some individuals, about one in 150 people infected with West Nile, will develop severe illness or may even die. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. The county health and human services department urges people experiencing severe systems to contact their health care provider immediately. Starr said that like other viruses, there is no treatment for West Nile, but that those experiencing severe symptoms may need hospitalization for intravenous fluids, help with breathing, and nursing care. Horses are at a greater risk for the disease. According to veterinarian Dr. Langdon Fielding with Loomis Basin Veterinary Clinic, many horses infected with West Nile will develop no symptoms, but of those who develop symptoms, 30 percent die or are euthanized. Fielding said that during the 2005 and 2006, the clinic treated 20 to 25 horses each year suffering from the virus. Of those, he said that about 60 percent survived. Last year the clinic treated one horse with West Nile and they are currently treating one horse suspected of having the disease. Fielding said that vaccinations have cut the number of equine West Nile cases. He explained that there are three different vaccines available for horses that are administered either once or twice a year. The cost per dose ranges from $24 to $34. There are no vaccines available for people. According to the Web site westnile.ca.gov, this year 132 Californians have been diagnosed with West Nile Virus resulting in one death. There have been eight confirmed cases of the virus in California horses this year and all have died. Information box The Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District and Placer County Health and Human Services offer the following reminders and information about preventing the spread of West Nile virus: ? West Nile virus is not a contagious disease. It is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds. ? Drain standing water weekly, since that's where mosquitoes lay eggs. Check your yard for water in old tires, flowerpots, birdbaths, buckets and stock water tanks. ? Schedule pasture irrigation to avoid standing water. ? Avoid mosquito bites by staying indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, wearing long sleeves and long pants, and using an insect repellant. Stable horses at dawn and dusk. ? Report swimming pools that are not maintained and become “neglected” to the district at 435-2140. These pools are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. ? Concerned residents may also request an inspection of a property or report a dead bird online through the district’s Web site: www.placermosquito.org or by calling the district at 435-2140. ? As dead birds are a surveillance tool to help track West Nile virus,residents are encouraged to report them by calling the California WNV hotline at 1(877) 968-2473, or online at www.westnile.ca.gov. ? Horses are vulnerable to West Nile virus, and the mortality rate for unvaccinated horses is very high. West Nile does not spread between humans and horses. Contact the California Department of Food and Agriculture at 654-1447 or online at www.cdfa.ca.gov. ? For more information, call the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District at 435-2140 or visit the District’s Web site at www.placermosquito.org.