Health officials confirm LA County's 1st West Nile virus death this year (update)

A mosquito sits on a stick April 9, 2009 in Martinez, California.
A mosquito sits on a stick April 9, 2009 in Martinez, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Update 3:23 p.m.: Officials confirm county's first West Nile death this year

L.A. County health officials confirmed Wednesday that a South Bay man was the county's first victim of the West Nile virus this year. 

City News Service reports that the L.A. Department of Public Health has not yet disclosed the man's identity, but did describe him as an "older adult male who lived in the South Bay area.''

That would fit the description of Albert Shipman. On Tuesday, Albert's son, Alfonso Shipman, told the Daily Breeze that his father had died of suspected West Nile Virus at San Pedro's Little Company of Mary Hospital.   

"He was experiencing loss of memory, slurred speech and pain on his right side,'' Alfonso Shipman told the paper. "Then finally, about 10 days ago, they said it's West Nile. ... We were just devastated.''

Thirteen people have been diagnosed with West Nile Virus this year, the L.A. County Department of Public Health said in a statement. Six of them were blood donors who didn't realize they had the disease.  

Health officials said a number of local agencies are cautioning residents that this is a particularly active year for the spread of the virus and offered these tips on avoiding illness:

  • Avoid outdoor activities around dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active
  • Wear long-sleeve shirts and pants when outdoors
  • Apply insect repellents containing active ingredients such as DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus
  • Keep tight-fitting screens on doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out
  • Eliminate all sources of standing water around homes and properly maintain ornamental ponds, pools and spas.

Update 7:47 a.m.: L.A. County man may have died from West Nile virus

Authorities say a Los Angeles County man infected with the West Nile virus has died and health officials are trying to determine whether the illness caused his death.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram says the 78-year-old Carson man died Tuesday night. His family says he was hospitalized two weeks earlier with symptoms that included slurred speech, pain and memory loss.

Five cases of the mosquito-borne disease have been reported this year in the county.

Most people who contract West Nile have mild or no symptoms, but it can be deadly to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. There were six such deaths in L.A. County last year.