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LOS ANGELES - A 70-year-old Kern County woman is the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus infection in California this year, state health officials announced.
The woman was hospitalized but is now recovering.
"The first confirmed West Nile virus case reminds us that we must take precautions to protect ourselves and our families from mosquito bites," said Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health. "West Nile virus activity is greatest during the summertime."
West Nile virus is transmitted to people and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. One in five people infected with West Nile virus will exhibit symptoms that usually occur between 5-15 days from infection and can include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, or skin rash.
One in 150 people with the virus will require hospitalization. Severe symptoms include high fever, muscle weakness, neck stiffness, coma, paralysis and even death. The risk of serious illness to most people is low but some people - less than 1 percent - can develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis.
People ages 50 and older have a higher chance of getting sick and are more likely to develop complications. Recent data also indicates that those with diabetes or hypertension are at greatest risk for serious illness.
To date in 2012, West Nile virus has been found in 15 California counties.
The state health department recommends people prevent exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile virus by practicing the "Three Ds":
DEET - Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age or older, health officials said.
Dawn and Dusk - Mosquitoes bite in the early morning and evening so it is important to wear proper clothing and repellent if outside during these times. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep mosquitoes out. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.
Drain - Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flower pots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls. If you know of a swimming pool that is not being properly maintained, contact your local mosquito and vector control agency.
Residents are encouraged to report all dead birds and tree squirrels by calling (877) 968-2473.
Meanwhile, West Nile virus was confirmed in a mosquito sample collected in Encino last week. Statewide, there have been 91 positive mosquito samples identified across six counties, a "dramatic increase" from the five samples confirmed statewide at this time last year, vector control officials said.
"This is a reminder that West Nile virus continues to be a problem here in Los Angeles County," said Susanne Kluh, director of scientific technical services for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District. "We can anticipate more activity as the season progresses. "
Published: June 21, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 10