LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Authorities in LA County say two deaths reported there can be attributed to West Nile virus.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed the first deaths due to West Nile this year in LA County. (Cases in Long Beach and Pasadena are identified by their local health departments).
Officials said the two victi ms were both elderly males from the San Fernando Valley, both hospitalized in August and died from WNV-associated encephalitis.
This week, 11 new WNV infections, including two asymptomatic blood donor, were documented in Los Angeles County, for a total of 68 infections this year. The number of WNV cases identified in Los Angeles 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. “Older adults and people with weak immune systems are at highest risk of severe illness. Protect yourself from mosquitoes by using insect repellent containing an effective ingredient such as DEET, and eliminating any standing water around your home where mosquitoes can breed. Do it for your kids. Do it for your grandkids. Do it for yourself.”
Persons over 50 years of age and those with immuno-compromising medical conditions are at increased risk of serious WNV infection, neuroinvasive disease (including meningitis, encephalitis, and paralysis) and death. In total, 108 human infections, including four fatalities, have been documented in the state of California in 2016.
In 2015 in LA County, 300 human infections and 24 deaths due to WNV were reported. Like in the two fatal cases in 2016, 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, authorities said.
In recent years, the peak month of onset of WNV illness has been September with cases continuing into November.