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West Nile virus

8/8/2011, 12:35 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--The first two human cases of West Nile virus in Los Angeles County this year were confirmed today by health officials who warned that mosquitoes carrying the virus have been particularly active this year.

Both patients are middle-aged men with pre-existing health conditions.

Both were hospitalized and are recovering, according to the county Department of Public Health.

According to the California Department of Public Health, there were eight confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in the state going into today.

The Los Angeles County cases bring that total to 10.

As of Friday, West Nile virus had been detected in 45 dead birds and 115 mosquito samples taken in various parts of Los Angeles County. That level is the highest it has been since the epidemic year of 2008, according to Suzanne Kluh of the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District.

Residents who see dead birds were urged to call (877) WNV-BIRD, or (877) 968-2473.

Mosquitoes obtain the virus by feeding on infected wild birds. Vector-control officials said neglected swimming pools are a major breeding ground for mosquitoes, and dramatically increase the risk of the disease being spread.

West Nile virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus is not spread through person-to-person contact, or directly from birds to humans. In most cases, people who are infected with West Nile virus never become sick, or have only very mild symptoms that include fever, headache, nausea, body aches, and a mild skin rash.

Symptoms of West Nile virus could appear within three to 12 days after infection. Fewer than one in 150 people who are bitten by an infected mosquito become severely ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In these rare cases, the virus can cause encephalitis and death. The elderly are most at risk for severe cases of the disease. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. However, individuals with severe symptoms may be hospitalized.

People can decrease their risk of infection by following these recommendations:
* Avoid mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk.
* Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
* Use repellants containing DEET, picaridin or oil of eucalyptus.
* Check your window screens for holes.
* Do not allow water to collect and stagnate in old tires, flowerpots, swimming pools, birdbaths, pet bowls, or other containers, which are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
* Clean and chlorinate swimming pools; and drain water from pool covers.