An 88-year-old woman from Kern County is the first person in 2012 to die in California of the disease carried by mosquitoes.
The California Public Health Department reports that 10 people in the state have contracted West Nile so far in 2012.
For most people, the risk of serious illness after a West Nile infection is rather low. But the elderly are at greater risk for more severe problems. Public health officials also say people with diabetes or hypertension are more susceptible.
Public health officials suggest keeping in mind what they call the "Three D’s" for protection against West Nile:
1) Defend yourself with the proper mosquito repellant.
2) Drain and eliminate standing water on your property where mosquitoes breed.
3) Keep in mind at dawn and dusk mosquitoes are most active.
Last year in California, nine people died of West Nile Virus. Nationwide, there is an uptick in incidents. The Centers for Disease Control report 241 cases as of Aug. 1. That is the highest it's been in eight years.
Mosquitoes become infected with West Nile Virus when they feed on infected birds.
Californians are encouraged to report all dead birds and dead tree squirrels on the website or by calling toll-free 1-877-WNV-BIRD (968-2473).