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Two deaths from West Nile virus reported in Northern California

Officials report first two California deaths linked to West Nile virus this year

Two people have died of West Nile virus in Northern California -- the first reported deaths linked to the illness in the state in 2014.

The deaths were reported Wednesday in Sacramento and Shasta counties, which have had multiple cases of West Nile virus this year.

In Sacramento County, a 74-year-old woman, who had been suffering from an underlying chronic disease, was hospitalized and later died.

"This is a very sad outcome, one we had hoped to prevent," Dr. Olivia Kasirye, the county's health officer, said in a statement. "We are working to educate people about the steps that can be taken to prevent contracting West Nile virus."

Seven additional cases in Sacramento County are being investigated.

Shasta officials described the person who died of the disease only as an adult because the region is small and revealing more information would effectively identity the person, said Tim Mapes, a community education specialist with the county's Health and Human Services Agency.

At least 35 human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in California this year, according to a statewide database.

Last year, 15 people died in California from West Nile virus. Nine of those deaths occurred in Los Angeles County.

The virus is usually transmitted to humans from a bite by an infected mosquito. Symptoms can include high fever, a severe headache and confusion or a stiff neck.

State officials urged residents to wear insect repellents when outdoors, limit activity at dusk and dawn and drain any standing water, which attracts mosquitoes.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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