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This Year's First Two West Nile Virus Deaths Reported In L.A. County

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The first two deaths of 2016 from West Nile virus have been reported in Los Angeles County, according to county public health officials.

L.A. Times reports that two elderly men from the San Fernando Valley were hospitalized with encephalitis, the deadly brain infection associated with West Nile, in August. The names or ages of the men were not released.

According to CBS L.A., 11 new cases of West Nile virus were documented in the county in this week alone, bringing the total up to 68 infections in L.A. so far this year. This exceeds the number of cases in L.A. county that were reported and identified by this time in 2015. Yikes. The Times noted that September through November are the "peak" months for West Nile virus infections in humans, so it's likely to only get much worse.

While the Zika virus has been the most-talked about mosquito-borne disease of the summer, Dr. Laurene Mascola told LAist in July that the perils and prominence of West Nile should not be overshadowed by it: in 2015, there were 300 cases of West Nile reported in L.A. County, with 262 hospitalizations and 24 fatalities.

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ABC-7 notes that people over 50 years old face higher risk of severe illness, and death, from the virus. The symptoms are mild (fever, nausea, mild rash, headache)— if there are any at all. According to the Times, in 80% of cases, those infected don't become sick at all. There is no treatment, and a full recovery can take more than a year.

So, how does one avoid it? Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, interim health officer for the county, said to "protect yourself from mosquitoes by using insect repellent containing an effective ingredient such as DEET, and eliminating any standing water around your home where mosquitoes can breed." It's also recommended to avoid mosquito-y areas around dawn and dusk, and to wear long sleeves and pants in these places as well.