The deadly West Nile Virus (WNV) has killed its first victim in California this year, as confirmed by health officials July 20.
The WNV-caused death of a senior citizen from Nevada County has not stopped the virus from further spreading into several districts in the state.
"This death is a tragic reminder of how severe West Nile Virus can be," said Dr. Karen Smith, Director and State Health Officer at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). She reminded people in California to be more watchful and protective.
The average WNV activity reported during a five-year period takes place in about 22 counties, with the number of WNV-infected mosquitoes totaling to around 330. This year alone, 33 California counties have already reported WNV activity, with 497 mosquito samples having been tested positive for the virus.
WNV gets transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. It has no symptoms - one out of five people who catch the virus will develop a fever, headaches or disorientation. WNV poses a low risk of serious illnesses in most people; however, it can target a less-than-one percent population of people who may develop encephalitis, meningitis or other serious illnesses or neurological diseases.
People 50 years old and up are more likely to develop serious complications than those younger. People with hypertension or diabetes are also more likely to get sick because of WNV, studies show.
While the virus is known to be transmitted by mosquitoes, birds may also carry it. Factors that affect the uprise of WNV are the number and types of mosquitoes and birds in an area, including their level of immunity to WNV.
Climate also plays a role in the spread of the virus, as drought may deprive mosquitoes and birds of a regular supply of water. When these mosquitoes and birds travel great distances to look for water, the transmission of WNV becomes amplified.
The CDPH lists "three D's" to ensure that Californians are aware of basic steps they can use to prevent being infected by WNV: DEET, Dawn and Dusk, and Drain.
Insect repellent must contain DEET, picaradin, lemon eucalyptus oil IR3535. These repellents are safe even for infants two months and up.
Mosquitoes usually bite in the morning and evening. These times of the day are the best times to be most cautious, applying more repellent and wearing proper protective clothing.
Flower pots, water buckets or swimming pools may contribute to the growing population of possibly infected mosquitoes. Try to drain as much of these mosquito larva bearing pools of water, but if you can't get rid of your flower pots or swimming pool, just make sure to have it cleaned regularly.
Gabriel Flores Romero | Flickr