Orange County reports first 2020 human death from West Nile virus

Local news
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 human death associated with West Nile virus infection in Orange County this year was reported Wednesday.

An elderly man from Garden Grove died from complications associated with West Nile sometime this week, according to the O.C. Health Care Agency.

The county has had five symptomatic patients reported in 2020 thus far, two of whom had West Nile neuroinvasive disease and three who had virus-related fever. Of these cases, four people were hospitalized.

In August, a child in Orange County was diagnosed with West Nile virus, becoming the county’s first confirmed human case of the mosquito-borne infection this year.

Back in June, the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District said some areas of the region had been experiencing an increase in mosquito activity for six consecutive weeks. At the time, the 2020 mosquito count was already nearly five times higher than the previous year’s and double the county’s five-year average.

Neighboring Los Angeles County reported its first virus-related human death a month ago, after an elderly resident of the South Los Angeles area died from neuroinvasive disease.

The bloodthirsty insects can transmit the virus to humans via a bite. While most people infected won’t experience any symptoms, about 20% will develop a fever and other side effects, including headache, body aches, nausea, tiredness and, occasionally, a skin rash.

Anyone who develops the more serious symptoms of West Nile neuroinvasive disease such as severe headaches, neck stiffness, confusion, muscle weakness or vision loss should seek medical care immediately. People over 50 years old and those with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of serious complications.

Recommended precautions include emptying all standing water on your property to reduce areas in which mosquitoes may breed, including flower pots and pet bowls; making sure your window and door screens are in good condition; using insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or products containing IR3535; limiting outdoor activity at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active; and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.

Information on mosquito control is available on the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District’s website at ocvector.org.

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