The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) has confirmed the first death of West Nile virus (WNV) infection in Los Angeles County for the 2017 season (excluding Long Beach and Pasadena as cases identified in those cities are reported by their local health departments). The resident was from the San Fernando Valley area, who was hospitalized in early August and died from WNV-associated neuro-invasive disease.
This week, eight new WNV cases, including one asymptomatic blood donor, were documented in Los Angeles County, for a total of 46 cases this year.
“West Nile virus is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization, death and long-term disability, especially in older adults and people with weak immune systems,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County. “Everyone should take precautions against mosquitoes by using insect repellent containing an effective ingredient such as DEET, and eliminating any standing water around their home where mosquitoes can breed.”
Persons over 50 years of age and those with chronic medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes or hypertension are at increased risk of severe neuro-invasive disease from WNV infection that can result in meningitis, encephalitis, limb paralysis and even death. There is no specific treatment for WNV. For many, recovery from their illness can take a year or more with ongoing physical and mental impairment.
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Public Health performs surveillance to identify people with 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 with heightened risk in the San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, Antelope Valley, and eastern county areas. All county residents are encouraged to take protective action to prevent mosquito bites.
In 2016 in LA County, 153 human cases including 6 deaths due to WNV were reported. In recent years, the peak month of onset of WNV illness has been September, with cases continuing into November.
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