While no human deaths have been attributed to the virus, carried by mosquitoes, health officials see a major spike in activity.
"The West Nile virus situation in Southern California is dangerous. It is a very dangerous situation that is evolving in Southern California at this time. We are all threatened by this," said Gerard Goedhart from the OC Vector Control District.
The conditions are similar to the 2004 West Nile epidemic that killed 21 people in Southern California alone.
Why the alarming jump? Health officials say record numbers of foreclosed homes may well be largely to blame.
Officials are finding that many of the pools in these homes have been neglected. This type of environment makes a prime breeding ground for the mosquitoes.
"We see thousands throughout Southern California now, many of these are breeding mosquitoes. We've been tracking these and we are getting out to them. One thing we'd like to engage the public to do is to report to us when they see an abandoned home, especially one that has a bad swimming pool in the back," said Robert Cummings from the OC Vector Control District.
Some tips to prevent West Nile virus:
- Insect repellent
- Wear long sleeves at dusk and dawn
- Keep windows screened
- Eliminate mosquito breeding sites, standing water
While many human West Nile victims never show symptoms, one in 150 will develop serious illness that can lead to death.
"Typically you obviously have fever, headaches, body aches, fatigue, and a possible rash. We are heading into part of the season where we typically would expect more human cases," said Dr. Hildy Meyers, OC Health Care Agency.
Beware and do what you can to protect yourself. For more information on West Nile virus and how to protect yourself click here.