The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) has confirmed the first death due to West Nile virus (WNV) for the 2018 season in Los Angeles County. The patient, a resident of the San Fernando Valley area, was hospitalized in early September and died from WNV- associated neuro-invasive disease. A total of 38 cases have been documented in Los Angeles County this year (excluding Long Beach and Pasadena as cases identified in those cities are reported by their local health departments).
“Our thoughts and prayers are with this person’s family and friends during this sad time. This should remind all of us that West Nile virus is a serious disease,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Health Officer. “Everyone should take precautions by using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered mosquito repellent when outside and checking weekly for items that collect standing water in their homes or yards where mosquitoes can breed. Items that can hold water, even as small as a bottle cap, should be cleaned, covered or cleared out to stop mosquito breeding.”
WNV is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito; mosquitoes become infected by biting a bird that carries the virus. Most mosquitoes do not carry the virus, therefore most people bitten by a mosquito are not exposed to WNV. The virus is not spread through person-to-person contact or directly from birds to humans. Persons over 50 years of age and those with chronic medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes are at increased risk of severe neuro-invasive disease from WNV infection that can result in infections of the brain, paralysis and even death. There is no specific treatment for this disease. For many, recovery from their illness can take a year or more with ongoing physical and mental problems.
Public Health monitors cases of WNV infection and collaborates with local vector control agencies to target areas for mosquito control activities and health education. WNV-infected mosquitoes, dead birds, and sentinel chickens have been identified across LA County. All county residents are encouraged to take protective action to prevent mosquito bites, especially as additional cases are expected to occur this year. Last year’s WNV season was the longest season on record extending until mid-December.
Public Health has documented persistently elevated numbers of WNV cases in LA county over the previous 5 years, at an average of 221 cases per year. Over three-quarters of reported cases have had severe disease and approximately 7% of patients with severe WNV have died from complications. In 2017, a record of 27 deaths were documented among LA County’s 268 cases. Reduction of mosquito breeding sources and protection from mosquito bites are key to prevention.
Decrease your risk of exposure:
- PROTECT YOURSELF: Mosquito repellents can keep mosquitoes from biting you. EPA-registered repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, 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.
- 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.
- DRAIN STANDING WATER: Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flowerpots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls. Ensure that swimming pools, spas, and ponds are properly maintained.
- POOLS AND SPAS: Clean and maintain swimming pools, spas, and drain water from pool covers.