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Health Alert: Second L.A. County Resident Dies from West Nile Virus

The death has prompted heightened warnings for people to take extra caution against mosquito bites.

A second Los Angeles County resident has died due to West Nile virus, health officials announced Tuesday, prompting heightened warnings for people to take precautions against mosquito bites.

Both victims were adults in their 80s who lived in the southeastern part of the county, according to the Department of Public Health.

Health officials noted that people over 50 years old and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk for developing severe symptoms, which may require hospitalization.

"While most people bitten by a mosquito are not exposed to West Nile virus, some individuals may become infected with this disease and may experience symptoms that can last for months, or even years, such as fatigue, malaise and depression," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's top health official. Symptoms can appear within three to 12 days after infection and severe symptoms of meningitis and encephalitis can lead to hospitalization.

To date, 54 human cases of West Nile virus illness have been reported in the county, and vector control districts have detected the virus in 170 dead birds, five squirrels and 196 mosquito pools. Samples were found throughout the county, Fielding said.

Last week, two WNV-positive mosquito samples were discovered in Cerritos, and a dead American Crow infected with the virus was also discovered in Artesia, according to vector control officials. 

Areas with high mosquito areas are being actively treated, but Fielding urged residents to report dead birds by calling (877) 968-2473 or at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov and stagnant pools to (626) 430-5200.

Southland Heat Calls for More Prevention

"As the hot days continue, I urge all residents to protect themselves and their family and friends from mosquito bites by getting rid of stagnant water around their homes, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors and using a repellant in mosquito-prone areas, especially around dawn or dusk," Fielding said.

The best way to prevent West Nile virus or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take the following precautions to avoid mosquito bites. 

  • Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.
  • While outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535, according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens, and repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.
  • Empty standing water from items outside your home such as flowerpots, buckets, kiddie pools, and birdbaths.

West Nile Virus Facts

West Nile virus is transmitted to people and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no cure for West Nile virus. Approximately one in five people who are infected with West Nile virus will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, or rash. Less than one percent will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die.

More information can be found online at http://westnile.ca.gov.

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