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Banning Area Man Is 6th West Nile Victim in State

Times Staff Writer

A 72-year-old man from the Banning area has died after contracting the West Nile virus, the sixth person in the state to die from the virus this year, health officials said Wednesday.

He was one of Riverside County’s 31 reported human infections this year, said County Disease Control Director Barbara Cole.

Cole said the man who died “did have some serious underlying illnesses, which may have complicated his condition.”

The Riverside County Department of Health said the prior health concerns could have weakened the elderly man’s immune system, making him more susceptible to the mosquito-borne virus.

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In late July, an 84-year-old Perris man became Riverside County’s first West Nile death of 2005. The remaining California deaths were reported in Fresno, Kings, San Joaquin and Butte counties.

Of the 31 reported cases in Riverside County, Cole said, 28 are symptomatic -- the more serious type -- while the remainder show few or no symptoms. Nearly 150 horses and 1,300 dead birds have tested positive for West Nile in California this year.

As of Tuesday, 208 human cases had been reported in the state in 2005, roughly the same as 2004, said Vicki Kramer, chief of the Vectorborne Disease Section of the California Department of Health Services. Most of the cases are in Central and Northern California, she said.

“We’re only seeing fewer cases in some counties, such as San Bernardino and Los Angeles, and a rapid increase in the more Central Valley areas like Sacramento,” Kramer said.

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“For Southern California [the disparity] may have been because of the cool spring weather, some immunity in the bird population, increased public awareness and increased community action, such as mosquito growth prevention,” she said.

By the end of the 2004, 116 people had been reported to be infected with West Nile in Riverside County, and two had died. Los Angeles County had 331 cases in 2004, Orange County had 64, and San Bernardino County had 197.


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