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2 L.A. County residents infected with West Nile Virus

August 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Mosquitoes carrying the dangerous virus have been particularly active this year. Public health officials are warning residents to take precautions.

The two cases of West Nile Virus affected middle-aged men, one in the San Fernando Valley and one in the San Gabriel Valley. But health officials say they are seeing more cases of West Nile Virus in mosquitoes and birds across Los Angeles County and that suggests there may be more risk for humans.

West Nile Virus has been detected in 45 dead birds and more than 100 mosquito samples taken in various parts of L.A. County.

Health officials are warning everyone to take precautions to avoid mosquitoes because that is the primary way the virus is transmitted. Mosquitoes pick it up by feeding on infected birds.

In 2008 there were 170 cases of West Nile Virus.

In most cases people who are infected never become sick. A small percentage suffers symptoms including fever, nausea and body aches. But in rare cases West Nile can cause encephalitis and even death.

The elderly, young children and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk, but officials say everyone should take steps to protect themselves.

"The way we get it is a mosquito bites a bird and then bites a human, that's the way we get it. But if you see dead birds or not, it still could be in your community," said L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding. "We've had again, examples of dead birds with West Nile in most parts of L.A. County. So just seeing them shouldn't be a cause for panic and not seeing them shouldn't be a cause to say, 'Oh, I don't need to take the necessary precautions.'"

Officials don't know exactly why West Nile Virus is on the rise, but stagnant water is a big problem.

There are a number of things you can do to decrease the risk of infection.

First, avoid mosquito infected areas at dawn and dusk.

Also, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you're outdoors.

And use insect repellant containing DEET.

Be sure to clean and chlorinate your swimming pool.

If you have more questions about the virus and need more information you can call the California West Nile hotline at (877) WNV-BIRD.

The L.A. County men who contracted the virus are recovering.


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