On Wednesday, Los Angeles County health officials announced the first West Nile virus death of the year. 38 cases have been confirmed this year, but this is the first to result in a fatality.

An unidentified San Fernando Valley resident died earlier this month from neurological complications following West Nile infection, officials said Wednesday morning. The individual in question had been hospitalized since September, according to the county Department of Public Health.

Despite the death, this has proven to be a relatively calm year in terms of West Nile infections. In 2017, 268 human cases of the virus had been identified in Los Angeles County, with 27 deaths ultimately reported. However, health officials made it clear that all Angelenos should take precautions.

“This should remind us all that West Nile virus is a serious disease,” Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said. “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.”

Davis also warned that standing water sources could lead to mosquito breeding, even in items as small as a bottle cap. Such sources should be either cleared out or covered up, 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.

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