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State's first West Nile virus case of the year reported in Santa Barbara County

July 22, 2011 |  6:24 pm

Mosquito The California Department of Public Health on Friday confirmed the first West Nile virus infection of the year, this time in Santa Barbara County.

The infected man was hospitalized in Santa Barbara County, but is now recovering at home, according to a department statement.

"We are intensifying our surveillance for the virus with the help of all counties," said Kathleen Billingsley, the department's chief deputy director. "To protect against West Nile virus, the most important step people can take is avoiding mosquito bites."

West Nile virus is most commonly transmitted by mosquitoes that harbor the virus and pass it on to humans when they bite.

Los Angeles County's West Nile season began in May when a dead crow tested positive for the virus.

The risk of serious illness to most people is low, health officials said. Less than 1% of people will develop serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis.

People over age 50 are more likely to get sick and develop serious symptoms. Those with diabetes or hypertension are at greatest risk for serious illness, according to recent studies.

So far this year, the West Nile virus has been detected in 14 other California counties.

State health officials recommend that individuals prevent exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile virus by applying insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535; wearing clothing that protects against mosquito bites, installing screens to shield homes from mosquitoes and draining standing waters that could harbor the insects. 

Health officials have posted additional information on their West Nile website.


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Graphic: Mark Weber / Tribune Media Services