West Nile Virus In LA County Confirmed, 2 Men Hospitalized

The first human cases of West Nile Virus in LA County this year have been confirmed by health officials. Both victims, described as "middle-aged males who have preexisting health conditions", have been hospitalized and are recovering, according to the Department of Public Health.

The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD) and several other agencies have been warning residents that "this year is a particularly active year for mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus" and to take precautions.

"West Nile Virus can appear anywhere in Los Angeles County or around the state. We urge residents to get rid of pools of stagnant water around their homes, where mosquitoes breed. Use a repellant containing DEET, or another approved repellent, when outdoors in mosquito-prone areas, especially around dawn or dusk."

Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on wild birds that are infected. As of August 5, WNV was detected in 45 dead birds and 115 mosquito samples taken in various parts of Los Angeles County.

"The level of West Nile Virus detected in mosquito samples and dead birds in Los Angeles County this July is the highest it has been since the last epidemic year in 2008," said Suzanne Kluh, Director of Scientific-Technical Services, Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District. "We are urging residents to take notice of the elevated level of activity this summer and protect themselves."

Most mosquitoes do not carry the virus, the virus is not spread through person-to-person contact, nor is it spread directly from birds to humans. In most cases, people who are infected never become sick, or have mild symptoms including fever, headache, nausea, body aches, and a mild skin rash (symptoms of WNV could appear within three to 12 days). Fewer than one in 150 people who are bitten by an infected mosquito become severely ill, according to the CDC.

In these rare cases, the virus can cause encephalitis and death. Young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk for severe cases of the disease. There is no specific treatment for West Nile Virus. However, individuals with severe symptoms may be hospitalized.

Decrease risk of infection:
- Avoid mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
- Repellants 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.

The County of Los Angeles Department of Heath website has more information about West Nile Virus and a roster of Vector Control telephone numbers.