The Department of Public Health reports that 28 people died from West Nile virus (WNV) in California this year. An update on Friday, Oct. 30 says that health officials are urging residents to be watchful of mosquito breeding sites and mosquito bites as 469 people in 30 counties tested positive for the disease.

West Nile virus is a potentially fatal illness transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. This disease is characterized by fever, mild headache and flu-like symptoms. However, a severe complication might occur, triggering inflammation of the brain which is detrimental to overall health and may lead to death.

Most of the people who died were older adults 65 years old and above. They are included in age groups who are at higher risk of complications from the disease. Also, those who are suffering from diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, cancer and those who received organ transplants are at a greater risk of complications caused by the virus.  

"West Nile virus activity is more widespread in 2015 than in years past. Californians need to be vigilant in protecting themselves," Dr. Karen Smith, California Department of Public Health Director said earlier this year.

Up to date, there are still no available vaccines or antiviral drugs specifically for West Nile virus. Mostly, 70 to 80 percent of people infected with the virus do not develop symptoms. However, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 1 percent of people who contract the virus develop serious neurological illness like encephalitis or meningitis.

Hence, health officials are urging people to seek immediate medical attention if they develop symptoms like headache, high fever, neck stiffness, tremors, disorientation, seizures, paralysis or coma.

As of Oct. 27, there were 1,566 reported cases of West Nile virus to CDC and 1004 cases were identified as neuroinvasive. This means they developed neurological illnesess like meningitis or encephalitis. 562 cases were non-neuroinvasive.

Health officials recommend using insect repellent lotions and wearing protective clothing especially during the times of the day when mosquitoes are active. Cleaning pots, vases and other possible containers of standing water should be emptied regularly to prevent proliferation of mosquitoes that could threaten the whole community.

Last year, they reported a total of 31 deaths linked to West Nile virus. The latest report as of October says a total of 469 people from 30 counties already tested positive for the virus. 

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