The first human case of West Nile virus in Los Angeles County was reported Wednesday, according to health officials. The victim, described as an elderly man, is in stable condition, said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County.
The West Nile mosquito season typically begins in late June or early July, so this is around the time of year the county usually sees its first case of the virus, Gunzenhauser told KPCC. Last year, there were 300 cases in the county that resulted in hospitalization, he said, with 24 of those cases resulting in death.
Since the virus arrived in the county in 2003, outbreaks have impacted more people and have become more consistent. Gunzenhauser says after the virus' introduction, a surge of cases would pop up about every four years. However, since 2012, the virus has actually returned every summer.
The viral seasons have also been getting longer, Gunzenhauser said, noting that in 2015, the season extended well into November instead of ending in October. While the cause of the longer season isn't know, Gunzenhauser predicts this season could last up to four months.
“It’s just a good reminder to everybody that West Nile is present in Los Angeles County ... so people should be thinking about how to protect themselves,” he said.
Getting infected is easy to avoid, according to Gunzenhauser. Here are some tips to protect yourself against West Nile mosquitos:
- Avoid going outdoors as much as possible — they tend to bite in the late evening and early morning.
- Try to wear clothing that covers skin, despite the weather.
- Wear some type of repellent that contains deet.