Officials of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) have confirmed the first deaths due to West Nile Virus (WNV) this year in LA county (excluding Long Beach and Pasadena as cases identified in those cities are reported by their local health departments).

The two residents were elderly males from the San Fernando Valley area, both hospitalized in August and died from WNV-associated encephalitis. Due to patient privacy, health officials said, no other information about the victims would be released.

Officials also said 11 new WNV infections, including 2 asymptomatic blood donor, were documented in the county this week, for a total of 68 infections this year. In total, 108 human infections, including four fatalities, have been documented in the state of California in 2016.

The number of WNV cases identified in the county this year exceeds that identified by this time in 2015.

 “This serves as a warning that West Nile virus is a serious disease that may lead to hospitalization and can even result in death,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles county.

Persons over 50 years of age and those with immunocompromising medical conditions are at increased risk of serious WNV infection, neuroinvasive disease (including meningitis, encephalitis, and paralysis) and death.

 WNV-infected mosquitoes have been identified across LA County, with heightened risk in the San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley and East Los Angeles. All county residents are encouraged to take protective action to prevent mosquito bites.

 “We expect to see West Nile virus activity in mosquito populations through the fall,” said Truc Dever, General Manager for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District. “It is, therefore, important that residents continue to take measures to protect themselves from mosquito bites and keep their yards mosquito-free.

“Be sure to use insect repellent with EPA-registered active ingredients when outdoors where mosquitoes are present and dump and drain standing water on your property. If you have any concerns or need to submit a service request, contact your local vector control agency.”

 In 2015, 300 human infections and 24 deaths due to WNV were reported in the county. 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 recent years, the peak month of onset of WNV illness has been September, and with cases continuing into November.