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Two dead from West Nile virus in L.A. County this year

October 3, 2012 |  7:27 am

Dead mosquitoes
Two people have died in Los Angeles County this year of West Nile virus, and 54 cases of the illness have been reported locally, public health officials say.

The latest death prompted the county health department to renew warnings for people to take precautions and reduce their exposure to mosquitoes, which can transmit the virus through their bites.

Health officials said Tuesday the two who died were both in their 80s and lived in the southeastern part of the county. Their names were not released. People older than 50 and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk for developing severe symptoms.

"While most people bitten by a mosquito are not exposed to West Nile virus, some individuals may become infected with this disease and may experience symptoms that can last for months, or even years, such as fatigue, malaise and depression," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's top health official.

Fielding said the first signs of the illness — fever, headache, nausea, body aches and skin rashes — can appear within three to 12 days after infection. Severe symptoms include meningitis and inflammation of the brain, which can require hospitalization.

Recovery can take months to years, and some people may never fully recover. Health officials said mosquitoes are infected with West Nile virus by feeding on birds that carry it; then they can transmit it to humans. Horses are also susceptible, but an equine vaccination is available; no vaccination exists for humans.

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-- Dan Weikel

Photo: Dead mosquitoes are separated to be sorted at a mosquito lab in Texas. Credit: L.M. Otero / Associated Press.

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