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West Nile Infections On The Rise In L.A. County

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Monday, September 15, 2008 9:28 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Protecting Your Family, West Nile Virus, DEET, Insecticides, Repellents, CDC, Meningitis, Encephalitis

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IMAGE SOURCE: © WikiMedia Commons/ biting mosquito/ U.S. Dept. of Agriculture


An elderly man, in his 80s, residing in Los Angeles County has died of West Nile Virus, accounting for the fourth death this year in California from the virus, according to health officials.

Peak season for infections starts in August and ends in October.

About 20 percent of those infected will develop the most serious neuroinvasive form of the disease, which in rare cases can escalate to meningitis, encephalitis and in some cases death. Most at risk are people older than 50, and people who are chronically ill.

According to Dr. Jonathan Fielding, county director of public health, this year has been the worst in Southern California since 2004.

Health officials recommend using insect repellent, ensuring all windows have proper screening and eliminating any standing water.

The West Nile virus is transferred by mosquitoes that feed on birds carrying the virus in their blood.

One of the signs of West Nile infections is the high number of dead infected birds being found in Southern California. Some believe the high number of abandoned, foreclosed homes with swimming pools serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The virus first arrived in the northeast United States in 1999 and in California in 2003. In 2004, 779 California residents became infected, 29 of them died.

In 2005 and 2006, the number of cases and deaths dropped, but began to spike again in 2007. Scientists don’t really know why, as they say the virus is still so new to the area.

So how can you avoid mosquitoes? Don’t go out at dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are heaviest. Treat clothing with permethrin such as REI and Adventure 16. Wear clothes that covers as much skin as you can. While the repellant DEET works best, the CDC recommends using the lowest concentration possible because of concerns about safety, under 30 percent. (EPA)

DEET has been linked to brain cell death and behavior changes in rate. Some people don’t like its odor and the Environmental Protection Agency says DEET has been linked to seizures in children. Its use is not advised for children two months of age and younger and in pregnant women. Manufacturers advise against using DEET under clothing or on broken skin.

Safe Repellent Use –

» Do not use repellents on pets unless the labeling states they are for pets

» Always follow the instructions on the product label

» Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product label)

» Repellents should not be used under clothing

» Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin

» Do not apply to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears. When using sprays, do not spray directly on face—spray on hands first and then apply to face

» Don’t allow children to handle the product.

» Wash treated skin with soap and water, or shower, after returning indoors. This is particularly important when repellents are used several times throughout the day.

» If you or your child develop a rash, or other bad reaction from using a repellent, discontinue use. Wash the product off with mild soap and water and call a local poison control center for further assistance. #


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