First human case of West Nile confirmed in Riverside County

RIVERSIDE – A 78-year-old man this week was determined to be infected with the West Nile virus — the first confirmed human case in Riverside County this year, officials announced today.

The man, who lives on the west end of the county but whose identity was not released, was hospitalized for treatment of virus-related symptoms, according to the Riverside County Department of Public Health.

His condition was not immediately known.

”While West Nile is rarely life-threatening, it can be occasionally serious,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer. ”Unlike the common cold, which is easily transmitted, the West Nile virus can only be spread by mosquito bites and there are easy steps to take to reduce your risk of getting bitten.”

Nearly three dozen — 35 — cases of human infection were reported countywide last year, and 19 in 2012. No county resident has died from a West Nile-related illness since 2008, health officials said.

Statewide, about 130 people have been infected this year, resulting in seven deaths — all but one of them in Northern California, according to the California Department of Public Health. An elderly Orange County woman died last week of complications from West Nile; her death was announced Tuesday.

Mosquitoes typically become carriers of WNV after feeding on an infected bird and can then spread the potentially lethal strain to animals and humans, according to health officials.

Those at greatest risk include seniors and individuals with compromised immune systems.

Symptoms may never materialize, but can include fever, headache, nausea, body aches, skin rashes and swollen lymph nodes.

Mosquito season in Southern California generally spans the months of May through October. To reduce exposure to WNV during this period, residents are urged to:

— spend as little time as possible outdoors at dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes are most active;

— wear pants and long-sleeved shirts during outdoor activity;

— use insect repellent;

— ensure door and window screens are fitted properly to keep bugs out; and

— get rid of standing water, aside from pools properly treated with chemicals.

The California Department of Public Health asks anyone who finds a dead crow, raven, magpie or jaybird to call the West Nile hotline: (877) 968-2473.

Anyone with concerns about WNV, mosquitoes, neglected pools or standing water can contact the Riverside County Disease Control office at (951) 358- 5107.

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