West Nile Virus Claims Life
Last updated 8/7/2019 at 1:18pm
The Imperial County Public Health Department confirmed on July 16 that Robert Mears, 74, of Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea shoreline, died July 4 at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center of complications from the West Nile virus.
Imperial County health officials say it is unclear where he was infected. His family reported he was traveling throughout Southern California when exposed to the virus. They also confirmed he had several mosquito bites.
Mears’ daughter, Doree Grindell of San Diego, said Mears began to feel sick shortly after his birthday on June 11 but believed it was just a cold.
As he became sicker, he admitted to Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Brawley. From there he was transferred to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs and then to UCSD Medical Center where he died.
Grindell said he was in “good shape” until last month.
“It’s really hard. It’s devastating that a mosquito took away an amazing man,” she said.
The total number of WNV positive samples in the Coachella Valley so far this year is 284, more than the last four years combined. Riverside County is reporting the most positive samples of any county in California.
Positive reports have come in from traps placed in the nearby communities of Cathedral City, Coachella, Indio, La Quinta, Mecca, North Shore, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, and Thermal.
San Diego County had its first positive sample report last week in Santee. Imperial County has not had a positive sample report yet. All counties continue to test for infected mosquitos.
Most infected people have no symptoms, but others develop fever, headaches, and body aches. Hospitalization required for some, and in rare cases the WNV can prove fatal.
The Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District spokeswoman Tammy Gordon urged people to, “Remain vigilant about protecting themselves from getting bitten.”
Mosquitoes carrying the encephalitis virus have also detected, but so far no humans have reported sick.
“Young children, people over 50 years old, and people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of experiencing more severe symptoms of both mosquito-borne illnesses,” Gordon said. “Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek medical help.”
Both illnesses transmit to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.
In past years, human cases were reported both before and after July. By this time last year, nine human cases reported. Over the preceding five years, an average of three human cases reported by early July. Other than Mears, no other human cases reported for 2019 so far.
Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District crews are treating neighborhoods along Highway 111, between Mirage Cove and Evening Star drives in Rancho Mirage with multiple rounds of mosquito pesticide spray applications, which are designed to fend off potentially deadly mosquito-borne viruses in Coachella Valley.
Borrego Springs is not out of the woods, and as with Mears, Borregans travel around Southern California.
Stay clear of stagnant water, cover-up, and wear repellent.