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    News

    Mosquito Bite Kills Elderly LB Woman, First In City To Die From West Nile Virus


    (August 9, 2004, updated) -- A mosquito bite has killed an elderly LB woman, the city's first confirmed fatality of the West Nile Virus (WNV), LB's Dept. of Health and Human Services has told LBReport.com.

    [update] "West Nile Virus claimed the life of an 88-year old Long Beach woman," reported Darryl Sexton, MD, City Health Officer in a written release. "The woman was hospitalized on July 28th and died on August 9th from the illness. City Public Helth officials again emphasize that though the overall risk of contacting WNV infection with serious illness may be low in the general population, for the elderly and immune suppressed individuals the risk is much greater," the release said.

    This marks LB's first confirmed human death from the mosquito-borne virus...and is to date only the second WNV fatality confirmed in L.A. County. A 91-year old San Fernando Valley resident died of WNV a few days ago.

    LBReport.com has reported for months on the escalating advance of the disease and on concerns over standing water (in which mosquitoes can breed) on private property...as well as public complaints over standing water in city-controlled gutters in parts of LB. (LBReport.com's coverage is collected for quick reference on a page linked below and on our front page.)

    West Nile Virus produces no symptoms in roughly 80% of those bitten by infected mosquitoes, but causes flu-like symptoms in about 20%. It can also lead to encephalitis (brain swelling) or meningitis in about 1 in 150 people bitten by WNV infected mosquitoes. As previously reported by LBReport.com, infected mosquitoes have been identified in several LB and Lakewood locations. There is no cure, only supportive therapies which include hospitalization in serious cases.

    L.A. County has recorded over 25 human cases to date. One case, a WNV-related death, has been reported from Orange County, and there are numerous human cases in San Bernardino County with one reported death to date.

    In its written release, LB's Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) says:

    Since infected mosquitoes spread WNV, local residents can significantly assist assistance in reducing local risk of virus exposure by eliminating standing water on their private property to prevent breeding of mosquitoes. WNV is transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected with WNV when they feed on infected birds. As temperatures rise, mosquito populations are expected to increase. With this increase in the mosquito population, chances for WNV transmission will become higher.

    The DHHS Vector Control Program controls mosquito breeding on a regular basis in public areas. However, the DHHS needs the assistance of local residents to keep mosquito breeding to a minimum on private property. Residents are requested to take the following precautions to protect themselves and control mosquito breeding:

    • Remove pools of standing or stagnant water, which provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Debris piles, buckets, barrels, kidís toys, and tire swings are some common sources of stagnant water. Mosquitoes need water to complete their life cycle, therefore they are most active around stagnant water;
    • Clear gutters and drains of standing water;
    • Change water in birdbaths frequently;
    • Properly maintain clean swimming pools and spas with proper filtration and chlorination levels; green or dirty pools can breed thousands of mosquitoes in a week's time, unnecesarily increasing the population's risk of contracting WNV
    • Limit the watering of lawns and outdoor plants to twice a week to avoid run off to gutters and around sprinklers;
    • Limit your time outdoors when you notice mosquito activity (primarily at dusk and dawn). If you remain outdoors while mosquitoes are biting, wear clothing that provides more coverage of your skin (such as long sleeved shirts and pants);
    • Use mosquito repellents containing...DEET when outdoors and especially ebtween dusk and dawn. The repellent should be sprayed on clothing and exposed skin. Residents should follow instructions on the label. Consult with your childís pediatrician for appropriate concentrations to be used on children under the age of two.
    • Make sure that doors and windows have tight fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.

    Businesses are also urged to check their property weekly and eliminate any standing or stagnant water and to maintain swimming pools to summertime conditions. Green or dirty pools can breed thousands of mosquitoes in a weekís time, unnecessarily increasing the populationís risk of contracting WNV.


    Related coverage:

    First on LBReport.com: Aerial Spraying Against Mosquito-Borne West Nile Virus Could Result In Hardest Hit CA Areas

    Also: LBReport.com collected WNV coverage


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