The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has confirmed the first human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) infection for the 2016 season in LA County (excluding Long Beach and Pasadena as cases identified in those cities are reported by their local health departments).
The illness occurred in an elderly male from the Echo Park area with no prior medical history who was hospitalized for WNV disease in late June and is recovering at home.
“This serves as a warning…that West Nile Virus is a serious disease that may require hospitalization and can even result in death for some individuals,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County.
“Elderly persons and other people with weak immune systems are at highest risk of developing severe illness. Protect yourself from mosquitoes by using insect repellent containing an effective ingredient such as DEET, and eliminating any stagnant water around your home where mosquitoes can breed. Do it for your kids, do it for your grandkids, do it for yourself.”
In 2015 in LA County, 300 human infections and 24 fatalities due to WNV were reported. Most patients were older adults who experienced serious illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis. For many, recovery from their illness can take a year or more with ongoing physical and mental impairment.
There is no specific treatment for this disease.
In most years, the first case of WNV occurs at this time of the year, and cases continue through October or early-November.
County Public Health performs surveillance to identify people with WNV, and collaborates with local vector control agencies to target areas for mosquito control activities and health education. WNV-infected mosquitoes have been identified in several areas across LA County and all county residents are encouraged to take protective action to prevent mosquito bites.
“Vector control agencies in LA County cannot do it alone,” said Truc Dever, General Manager for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District. “It is imperative that the public help minimize the risk of being bitten by removing sources of water on their property that can breed mosquitoes. This is not a virus to take lightly. Additionally, residents should report dead birds, and also report sources of standing water to their local vector control agencies.”