LOS ANGELES (KABC) --A San Fernando Valley man in his 60s is reported as the first person to die in Los Angeles County this year from the West Nile Virus, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Officials say the man had pre-existing health conditions before he was hospitalized and eventually died from the virus.
To date, there are 20 reported cases of people with the West Nile Virus in Los Angeles County and three of those cases were asymptomatic blood donors. Also 139 mosquito pools, 31 dead birds and 26 sentinel chickens throughout Los Angeles County were reported with West Nile.
Last year, there were 165 reported human cases with the virus, which is among the highest counts documented since 2004. Of those reported cases, 122 people were hospitalized and nine people died.
Public health officials warn county residents that most people with the virus have mild or no symptoms and do not seek medical treatment, which means the total number of cases can be much higher than reported.
Jonathan E. Fielding, director of public health and health officer, said residents can reduce the risk of contracting the virus by following precautions such as getting rid of pools of stagnant water near their homes and using mosquito repellent containing DEET while outdoors.
The virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito and those mosquitoes are in turn infected by birds that can carry the virus. But most mosquitoes do not carry the virus, health officials say, and most people bitten by a mosquito will not be exposed to West Nile.
Those who become infected by the virus may never become sick or only suffer from mild symptoms such as headaches, fever, nausea, body aches and a mild skin rash. In rare cases, the virus can cause inflammation and swelling of the brain and death.
"Although most people bitten by a mosquito are not exposed to West Nile virus, some individuals may become infected with this disease and may experience symptoms that can last for months, or even years, such as fatigue, malaise, and depression," Fielding said.
The elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for developing severe symptoms and recovery could take years or months. There is no specific treatment for the disease.
The public can report dead birds online at http://www.westnile.ca.gov or call (877) 968-2473. Stagnant swimming pools or "green pools" should be reported to the Public Health Environmental Health Bureau at (626) 430-5200, or to a local vector control agency.
The public health department offers a few ways residents can decrease their risk of infection:
- Avoid mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
- Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of eucalyptus, when used as labeled, are effective defenses against mosquitoes.
- Check your window screens for holes.
- Do not allow water to collect and stagnate in old tires, flowerpots, swimming pools, birdbaths, pet bowls, or other containers. These are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools; drain water from pool covers.
- Stock garden ponds with goldfish or other mosquito-eating fish. These eat mosquito eggs and larvae.
- Empty and wash birdbaths and wading pools weekly.
For more information:
- Information on West Nile Virus by phone: (800) 232-4636.
- Information on West Nile Virus on the web: http://westnile.ca.gov/
Where to call with questions about mosquitoes:
Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District: (562) 944-9656
Los Angeles County West Vector Control District: (310) 915-7370
San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District: (626) 814-9466
Antelope Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District: (661) 942-2917
Compton Creek Mosquito Abatement District: (310) 933-5321
Pasadena City Health Department: (626) 744-6004
City of Long Beach Vector Control Program: (562) 570-4132