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Spike In West Nile Virus Activity Prompts 'Heightened Concern' In The Valley

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“There is no good mosquito.” (Photo by Jim Stauffer via the Creative Commons on Flickr))
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As of August 11, there have been 22 cases of West Nile Virus reported in Los Angeles County in 2017. The number is higher than usual when compared to figures for five-year averages, according to the county's Department of Public Health. So far this year, the county has had the highest number of infected people of any location in the state.

Ten of the 22 cases were in the San Fernando Valley, reports the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD), whose region includes all of the Valley. The agency also notes that, last week alone, they tallied 49 mosquito samples that tested positive for West Nile. This is a marked increase, said Levy Sun, a public information officer with GLACVCD. Sun told LAist that, in the week prior, only 23 samples had tested positive, and 24 samples came back as positive in the week before that.

“San Fernando Valley is of heightened concern for us this year,” Susanne Kluh, GLACVCD's scientific-technical services director, said in a statement.

This goes without saying that we have yet to hit the peak. The L.A. County Department of Public Health explains that the number of cases usually hits a high around mid-September.

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As we'd reported before, West Nile Virus is mostly transmitted through the Culex genius of mosquitos, which prefer to bite people during the dusk and dawn hours. Sun notes that there's a larger population of mosquitoes this year, as the rainy winter season provided plenty of breeding ground for the insects. "What's more, immediately after the rainy season, it was followed by heat. That really helped the population boom," said Sun. "There are still a lot of water sources in people's backyards that have not been emptied out." He adds that a small bottle cap with water (if left out in the open) can help breed a hundred mosquito eggs. He also noted that buckets and rain barrels with leftover water can be "ticking time bombs" for mosquitos.

So what does all this mean for us humans? Sun notes that there is no cure or vaccine for the West Nile virus, so the key is prevention. "Preventing bug bites is the only effective method. We should be actively eliminating sources of water around the house," said Sun.

This means doing regular checkups in your backyard and making sure there aren't any sitting puddles of water. And, if you're going out, it's advisable to wear insect repellant such as DEET. "There is no good mosquito," Dr. Laurene Mascola, chief of the Acute Communicable Disease Control program at the county Department of Public Health, told LAist back in October.

And what if you're infected? As Mascola informed LAist, the majority of people who have West Nile do not exhibit any symptoms—80% of sufferers are asymptomatic, and less than 1% of those infected with West Nile will develop a serious neurologic illness. If you are symptomatic, you may experience meningitis and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). If you suspect that you are infected you should see a physician as soon as possible.

[H/T: Daily News]