Health officials urge precautions after latest West Nile deaths

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L.A. County health officials are urging steps to protect against West Nile virus, after three more deaths attributed to the mosquito-borne disease.

Two men from South Los Angeles and one from the San Fernando Valley died from complications caused by West Nile, according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health. All three suffered from other health problems, making them more susceptible to serious complications from the virus. That brings the 2013 death toll in L.A. County to seven, according to the Department of Public Health. 

Elsewhere in Southern California, San Bernardino County has  confirmed one death this year from West Nile virus, according to a spokesman with that county's  Department of Public Health.  Orange, Riverside and Ventura counties are reporting no 2013 deaths from the virus so far.   

While West Nile can, in rare cases, cause encephalitis and death, only one  in 150 people bitten by an infected mosquito becomes severely ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   Most people who are infected develop no symptoms at all; about one in five people develop mild symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, and back pain. 

What's more, most mosquitos don't carry the virus, say health officials. 

Still, they are nevertheless urging caution as warmer-than-usual temperatures in October is extending the mosquito season. 

"Taking a few simple precautions can greatly reduce the risk of mosquito bites, the primary pathway to human infection,"  says Jonathan E. Fielding,  Director of Public Health and Health Officer for Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health offers these tips to reduce your risk of exposure to  West Nile: 

  • Avoid mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
  • Repellants containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of eucalyptus, when used as labeled, are effective defenses against mosquitoes.
  • Check your window screens for holes.
  • Do not allow water to collect and stagnate in old tires, flowerpots, swimming pools, birdbaths, pet bowls, or other containers. These are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools; drain water from pool covers.
  • Stock garden ponds with goldfish or other mosquito-eating fish. These eat mosquito eggs and larvae.
  • Empty and wash birdbaths and wading pools weekly.
  • Report stagnant or "green" swimming pools to a local public health or  vector control agency.

If you have questions about mosquitos in Los Angeles County, you can call: 

Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District: (562) 944-9656

Los Angeles County West Vector Control District: (310) 915-7370

San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District: (626) 814-9466

Antelope Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District: (661) 942-2917

Compton Creek Mosquito Abatement District: (310) 933-5321

Pasadena City Health Department: (626) 744-6004

City of Long Beach Vector Control Program: (562) 570-4132

Orange County Vector Control: (714) 971-2421 Ext. 117

County of San Bernardino Mosquito and Vector Control: (800) 442-ABATE (2283)

Riverside County Environmental Health: (888) 722-4234

Ventura County Environmental Health:  805-654-2813


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