La Mesa man latest victim of West Nile virus

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SAN DIEGO — A 73-year-old La Mesa man is recovering from a bout with an illness associated with West Nile virus, and an El Cajon woman probably contracted the mosquito-borne disease, as well, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency reported Friday.

The unidentified man was admitted to a hospital for meningoencephalitis, an infection of the brain and surrounding tissue that can result from West Nile virus infection, according to the HHSA.

The 44-year-old woman, whose name also was not released, suffered from flu-like symptoms and a rash.

The county said both reported having been bitten by mosquitoes before getting sick.

Last month, the county reported its first human WNV case in two years, a 43-year-old Santee man who experienced no symptoms. His infection was discovered after he donated blood.

“West Nile virus is a dangerous and potentially deadly disease,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “It’s important for the public to protect against West Nile virus by taking precautions, including avoiding outdoor activity at dawn and dusk, and using insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.”

Most people are infected with the virus from June through October, with the “peak season” in August and September.

Of those who become infected with West Nile virus, 80 percent will have no symptoms, according to the county HHSA. About one in five people who are infected will develop only a mild illness that includes a headache, fever, nausea, fatigue, skin rash or swollen glands.

One in 150 will suffer serious neurologic complications that can become life-threatening. The risk of complications increases for those over age 50, and for people with weakened immune systems.

In a report issued earlier this week, the state Department of Public Health reported 129 human cases of WNV so far this season, including six deaths, none in San Diego County.

According to the state, there had been six fatalities from West Nile virus this year in California as of Tuesday — in Glenn, Sacramento, Sutter, Shasta and Stanislaus counties. Health officials in Orange and Los Angeles counties, however, have since announced the WNV-related deaths of a woman in Seal Beach and a San Fernando man in his 60s, bringing the statewide death toll to eight.

The county urges residents to prevent mosquito breeding by dumping or removing backyard items that can hold water, such as plant saucers, rain gutters, buckets, garbage cans, toys, old tires and wheelbarrows.

Mosquito fish, available for free from Vector Control, can be used to control breeding of the insect in water sources such as neglected swimming pools, ponds, fountains and water troughs.

Window and door screens should also be checked to make sure they are in good condition and secured.

The presence of the virus can also be detected in dead birds. Dead crows, ravens, jays, hawks and owls that don’t show an obvious cause of death can be reported to Vector Control at (858) 694-2888.

Vector Control will also take reports on green, uncared-for swimming pools, which mosquitoes use for breeding.

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