The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has confirmed the first human death of West Nile virus (WNV) infection in Los Angeles County for the 2014 season. The fatality occurred in a male in his 60s, who lived in the San Fernando Valley, had pre-existing health conditions and was hospitalized at the time of death. To date, 20 WNV infections, including 3 asymptomatic blood donors have been documented in Los Angeles County.
“Although 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 Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “Residents can greatly reduce their risk of mosquito bites by following some simple precautions, such as getting rid of pools of stagnant water around their homes, and using a repellent containing DEET when outdoors in mosquito prone areas, especially around dawn or dusk.”
In 2013, 165 human cases of WNV were reported in Los Angeles County, among the highest counts documented since 2004. Of those who showed symptoms and were reported, 122 cases required hospitalization and 9 cases were fatal. Most people with WNV infection have mild or no symptoms and do not seek medical care; therefore, the total number of WNV infections are much larger than the number reported. As of August 28, 2014, non-human WNV activity has been detected in 139 mosquito pools, 31 dead birds, and 26 sentinel chickens located all across Los Angeles County.
The public can report dead birds online at http://www.westnile.ca.gov/report_wnv.php or call (877) 968-2473. Stagnant swimming pools or “green pools” should be reported to the Public Health Environmental Health Bureau at (626) 430-5200, or to a local vector control agency.
About West Nile Virus:
WNV is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito; mosquitoes can become infected by biting a bird that carries the virus. Most mosquitoes do not carry the virus and most people bitten by a mosquito are not exposed to the virus. The virus is not spread through person-to-person contact, or directly from birds to humans.
In most cases, people who are infected with West Nile virus never become sick or have only very mild symptoms that include fever, headache, nausea, body aches, and a mild skin rash. Symptoms of WNV could appear within three to 12 days after infection. Fewer than one in 150 people who are bitten by an infected mosquito become severely ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In rare cases, the virus can cause encephalitis and death. The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk for developing severe symptoms, which may require hospitalization. Recovery from any infection with the virus can take months to years and include symptoms of fatigue, malaise, and depression. There is no specific treatment for this disease.
Decrease risk of infection:
Avoid mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk.
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
Repellents 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.
Information on West Nile Virus by phone: (800) 232-4636.
Information on West Nile Virus on the web: http://westnile.ca.gov/
Where to call with questions about mosquitoes:
Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District: (562) 944-9656
Los Angeles County West Vector Control District: (310) 915-7370
San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District: (626) 814-9466
Antelope Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District: (661) 942-2917
Compton Creek Mosquito Abatement District: (310) 933-5321
Pasadena City Health Department: (626) 744-6004
City of Long Beach Vector Control Program: (562) 570-4132
The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises nearly 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $900 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do please visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/lapublichealth, find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lapublichealth, or follow us on Twitter: @LAPublicHealth.