On Wednesday, Los Angeles County health officials announced the first West Nile virus-related death of the year. Only nine cases have been confirmed this year, but this is the first to result in a fatality.
The unidentified South Bay resident died not from West Nile itself, but from neurological disease brought on by an earlier West Nile infection, officials said Wednesday morning.
“West Nile virus continues to be a serious health threat to residents in Los Angeles County,” Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said.
Despite the death, 2019 has continued a downward trend in regards to West Nile infections. In 2017, 268 human cases of the virus had been identified in Los Angeles County, with 27 deaths ultimately reported. In 2018, the number of infections fell to 38. This year, it’s only nine.
That’s no reason to slack off on prevention, Davis warned. He said standing water sources lead to mosquito breeding and should be either cleared out or covered up. Swimming pools, spas and ponds should be properly maintained, while water in pet dishes, birdbaths and other small containers should be changed weekly. Mosquitofish for ornamental ponds can also be requested from local vector control districts, to reduce numbers of mosquito larvae.
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.