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California Reports First West Nile Deaths Of The Year, Including An L.A. County Resident

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Image courtesy of Dmitrijs Bindemanis via Shutterstock.
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On Friday, the California Department of Public Health announced the first deaths of 2017 from West Nile virus. Three California residents have died of the virus so far this year, including one L.A. County resident.

The other two Californians who have died so far this year from West Nile virus were Kern County and San Bernardino County residents. Age and demographic information about the deceased were not released to protect confidentiality, according to health department officials. There have been a total of 87 human West Nile virus cases so far this year in California, with 28 new cases reported this week.

August and September are considered the peak periods of West Nile transmission in California. The virus, which was first documented in North America in 1999, is spread primarily through infected mosquitos. According to the CDC, most humans and animals affected by West Nile contract the virus after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes, in turn, typically contract the virus after feeding on infected birds. The vast majority (70 to 80 percent) of people infected with West Nile don't exhibit any symptoms, but the virus can also be deadly—especially for the elderly, and individuals with preexisting medical conditions.

According to the Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California, extended periods of hot weather can result in an increased mosquito population, which can cause a heightened risk of West Nile.

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A spike in West Nile cases in Los Angeles County was reported earlier this month by the county Department of Public Health, with nearly half of all county cases reported in the San Fernando Valley. “San Fernando Valley is of heightened concern for us this year,” Susanne Kluh, the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District's scientific-technical services director, said in a statement a few weeks ago.

Nineteen Californians died of West Nile virus last year, according to the L.A. Times.