LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – An increase in West Nile virus activity in the San Fernando Valley has health officials on alert this summer.

So far this year, 22 people in Los Angeles County have been diagnosed with West Nile, the county Department of Public Health reports. That number, which is the latest through Aug. 11, is higher than the previous five-year average.

Of those 22 patients, 10 were in the San Fernando Valley. Nineteen of the 22 had to be hospitalized.

There has been a “marked increase” in West Nile virus activity over the past month, according to the Greater L.A. County Vector Control District (GLACVCD), one of five such districts within the county. Last week alone, 49 mosquito samples tested positive for the virus within the GLACVCD.

“San Fernando Valley is of heightened concern for us this year,” Susanne Kluh, the district’s scientific-technical services director, said in a statement.

The virus is transferred by mosquitos that feed on infected birds. Infection with the virus often has mild affects. However, in some cases, it can progress from a mild fever and body aches to significant cognitive and neurological symptoms, the GLACVCD reports. Those can include weakness, confusion and paralysis that can even result in death in extreme cases. Recovery can take months to years.

People spending time outdoors are advised to wear mosquito repellant and treating their clothing with permethrin products to prevent bites. The CDC recommends products with the active ingredients of DEET, Picaridin or IR3535. For children, parents should only use EPA-registered repellants.

You should also regularly replace any standing water around your home – such as flower pots and pet dishes – which can serve as a mosquito breeding ground.

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