At least 2 people infected with West Nile virus in in L.A. County, officials say

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Culex mosquitoes, which most Californians are familiar with, spread West Nile virus. (Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Culex mosquitoes spread West Nile virus. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

The first two cases of people infected with West Nile virus in Los Angeles County for the 2020 season were identified this month, public health officials announced Thursday.

While L.A. County confirmed its first positive test in a mosquito in early June, two residents of the San Fernando Valley region were reported to now have the virus, according to the county’s Department of Public Health. One case is in an “older adult” with no underlying illnesses who was hospitalized with neuroinvasive disease in early July and is recovering, and the second case was detected in late July in a healthy blood donor, whose positive blood units were discarded, officials said.

The case count excludes Long Beach and Pasadena, since cases identified in those cities are reported by their local health departments.

“West Nile virus continues to be a serious health threat to residents in Los Angeles County. We encourage residents to cover, clean or get rid of items that can hold water and breed mosquitoes both inside and outside your home. This is important now more than ever as we spend a majority of our time at home,” said L.A. County Health Officer Muntu Davis.

Mosquito season in the county starts in June and ends in November. The number of people countywide infected with West Nile each year is estimated to be more than 10,000, but most people do not recognize they have it since their symptoms may be mild.

“We are now in peak mosquito season in Los Angeles County and residents should also protect themselves from mosquito-borne illnesses by using EPA-registered mosquito repellent products,” Davis said.

Mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus were found in three Orange County cities earlier this month. This year’s mosquito count is nearly five times higher than last year’s and double the O.C.’s five-year average, officials said in June.

Humans get the virus through the bite of an infected mosquito, according to the department. But most mosquitoes do not carry the virus.

Those who get West Nile virus may experience mild symptoms including fever, muscle aches and tiredness. In some cases, especially in people over 50, and those with chronic medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes, severe infection can occur and affect the brain and spinal cord.

There is no specific treatment for the disease and no vaccine to prevent infection, according to the public health department.

More than three-quarters of reported cases in L.A. County have been severe, and approximately 7% of patients have died from complications, the department said.

The county’s public health department recommends taking the following measures to reduce risk of exposure to the bloodthirsty insects:

  1. PROTECT YOURSELF: Mosquito repellents can keep mosquitoes from biting you. EPA-registered repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, 2-undecanone, and oil of lemon eucalyptus are the longest lasting and most effective. They are available as sprays, wipes, and lotions. Find the repellent that’s right for you here. Consider wearing long-sleeved clothes and pants when outside.
  2. MOSQUITO PROOF YOUR HOME: Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.
  3. REDUCE MOSQUITOES: Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Check for items that hold water inside and outside your home once a week. Cover water storage containers such as buckets and rain barrels. If no lid is available, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito. Clear standing water in flower pots, saucers, birdbaths and other containers. Clean and maintain swimming pools, spas and drain water from pool covers.

Stagnant swimming pools or “green pools” should be reported to the Public Health Environmental Health Bureau at 626-430-5200 or at http://www. westnile.ca.gov/report_wnv.php. Call 211 or visit socalmosquito.org to report persistent problems to your mosquito control district.

For questions about mosquitoes, call the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District at 562-944-9656.

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