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West Nile virus spreading in areas of L.A. County, authorities say

September 17, 2010 |  8:05 pm

West Nile virus, a potentially fatal disease transmitted by mosquito bites, is spreading in birds and mosquitoes in Los Angeles County, with recent activity found in the San Fernando Valley, the eastern San Gabriel Valley and southeast L.A. County.

Two dead virus-infected birds were found in Hacienda Heights and Winnetka, while two infected mosquito samples were collected from Woodland Hills and Pico Rivera, according to the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District.

Since August, West Nile virus has been found in Encino, Whittier, Long Beach, Cerritos, La Mirada, Glendale, Santa Fe Springs, Encino, Norwalk, Granada Hills, Downey, Newhall, La Habra Heights, Panorama City, Canyon Country, Reseda, South El Monte and Rowland Heights.

West Nile virus activity has increased with the rise in temperatures that began in August, and seems to be typical for this time of year. West Nile virus can cause fever, headache, body aches, nausea and skin rash, and can cause illness for 5 to 15 days. One out of 150 people infected may require hospitalization.

Officials urge homeowners to prevent swimming pools and other standing bodies of water from becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Fish that eat mosquito larvae can be requested from the county at no charge. Residents are also advised to wear bug repellent to avoid bites.

State officials confirmed the first West Nile virus fatality of 2010 in an elderly woman in Fresno County.

Statewide, there have been 45 human cases of West Nile virus so far this year, compared with 47 during the same time period last year.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II