Health Officials Warn of West Nile and Zika Carrying Mosquitoes

By City News Service

Los Angeles County health officials last week confirmed the county’s first human case of West Nile virus for the 2017 season, a revelation followed up on Monday by Long Beach city health officials who announced mosquitoes that can transmit Zika, dengue and other virus have been detected in their city.

Both public health agencies are urging residents to take extra precautions against mosquito bites, noting that mosquito season is at its peak in Southern California between May and October.

The Zika carrying mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti, which have also been found in other areas of Southern California, were detected in North Long Beach in the jurisdiction of the Compton Creek Mosquito Abatement District. Authorities are working to determine the extent of the infestation and prevent their spread. A variety of mosquito traps have been deployed in the area.

“We are actively informing and encouraging residents and visitors to take necessary precautions to prevent mosquito bites,” Mayor Robert Garcia said.

Aedes aegypti is a roughly quarter-inch large, black-and-white insect that is notably aggressive and is known to bite during the daytime.

The patient known to have contracted the West Nile virus was described only as an “elderly” San Gabriel Valley resident who was hospitalized in late March and has since recovered.

According to the state’s West Nile virus-tracking website, only one other human case of West Nile virus has been reported this season in California, in Kings County.

“West Nile is a serious illness spread by mosquitoes in Los Angeles County,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer.

“Take precautions against mosquito bites such as using a repellant containing DEET when outdoors, especially around dawn or dusk.

“There is currently no vaccine or treatment for West Nile virus,” he said. “Elderly persons and other people with weak immune systems are at highest risk of developing severe illness.”

Symptoms can include fever, body aches, rash, nausea, vomiting and headaches, but many people who are infected may not show any symptoms. About one in 150 people could develop more serious problems, such as brain inflammation or paralysis, health officials said. Zika is especially dangerous to pregnant women, whose Zika virus infection (Zika) during pregnancy can cause damage to the brain, microcephaly, and congenital Zika syndrome, a pattern of conditions in the baby that includes brain abnormalities, eye defects, hearing loss, and limb defects, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

To reduce exposure to West Nile, Zika and other viruses, residents are urged to:

— eliminate standing water that can attract mosquitoes;

— spend as little time as possible outdoors at dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes are generally on the move;

— wear pants and long-sleeved shirts during outdoor activity;

— use insect repellent; and

— ensure door and window screens are fitted properly to keep bugs out.

In 2016, Los Angeles County health officials reported 153 human cases and five deaths from West Nile virus. Those statistics do not include the cities of Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own public health agencies.

 

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June 22, 2017  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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