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SACRAMENTO -- California health officials said Wednesday the mosquito-born West Nile virus had resulted in the first two deaths of the summer.

The California Department of Public Health said a senior citizen in Sacramento County and an adult in Shasta County died after becoming infected with the virus.

In Sacramento County, officials said the 74-year-old woman also had underlying chronic disease and had been hospitalized.

"This is a very sad outcome, one we had hoped to prevent. We are working to educate people about steps that can be taken to prevent contracting West Nile Virus," Sacramento County Health Officer Olivia Kasirye said.

Seven other cases of West Nile are under investigation as of Wednesday. Public Health officials continue to gather information on those individuals.

The West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals through a mosquito bite. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Less than one percent of individuals exposed to the virus can develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis.

Those with diabetes and/or hypertension are at greatest risk for serious illness, said health officials. Plus, people over 50 years of age have a higher chance of getting sick and are more likely to develop complications.

The most effective ways for individuals to avoid mosquito bites and prevent West Nile are:

Apply insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, according to label instructions.

Ensure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.

Eliminate all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding.

Avoid going outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, at dawn and dusk.

Wear long sleeves and pants when possible.

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