L.A. County confirms its 1st West Nile virus death of 2021

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Los Angeles County on Friday reported its first West Nile virus death of 2021.

A resident of east L.A. County was hospitalized and died from a neuro-invasive disease associated with West Nile virus, according to an L.A. County Department of Public Health news release.

“To the family and friends feeling the sorrow of losing this person due to WNV, we send you our deepest sympathies,” L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said. “West Nile virus can be a serious health threat to people who get infected.”

So far, there has been a total of 10 cases documented in L.A. County this year — excluding in Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments.

Health officials have also found infected mosquitoes, dead birds and sentinel chickens across the county.

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Those who get the virus may get mild symptoms including fever, muscle aches and tiredness.

Severe West Nile virus infections can happen in some cases, especially in those over 50 with chronic medical conditions like cancer and diabetes. The infection can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis, encephalitis and paralysis.

Officials say there is no specific treatment for the disease and no vaccine to prevent it.

Most mosquitoes do not carry the virus, and most people bitten by mosquitos are not exposed to severe West Nile virus, the health department said.

In 2020, there were 93 West Nile virus cases confirmed in L.A. County, with the San Fernando Valley region contributing the most cases. That year, seven West Nile virus deaths were reported in the county, according to data from the health department.

“People should regularly check for items that can hold water and breed mosquitoes, both inside and outside their homes, and to cover, clean or throw out those items,” Davis said. “I encourage everyone to protect themselves from diseases spread by mosquitoes by using EPA-registered mosquito repellent products as directed, and wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.”

To decrease the risk of exposure to the virus, officials recommend making sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes and check for items that hold water, since mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water.

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