LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles County health officials have confirmed the county’s first West Nile virus death of the year and again urged residents to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites that can spread the disease.

The person who died was a San Fernando Valley resident who was hospitalized in early September and died from “West Nile virus-associated neuro-invasive disease,” according to the county Department of Public Health.

So far, 38 human cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed this year in the county, excluding Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments. In 2017, there were 268 human cases of the virus in the county, and a record 27 deaths.

“This should remind us all that West Nile virus is a serious disease,” said county health officer Dr. Muntu Davis. “Everyone should take precautions by using Environmental Protection Agency-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 hold water, even as small as a bottle cap, should be cleaned, covered or cleared out to stop mosquito breeding,” Davis said.

The virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Health officials said people over age 50 and people with chronic medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes have a higher risk of developing severe neuro-invasive disease from a West Nile infection that can lead to brain infections, paralysis or even death.