Environment & Science

28 deaths from West Nile virus reported in California this year

Photo by Raj/prince_tigereye via Flickr Creative Commons

Health officials say 28 people have died in California this year due to West Nile virus, which is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitos.

As of Friday, the total number of human cases statewide was 469, according to data compiled by the California Department of Public Health and other agencies. That's up from 2013 but well below the 801 cases recorded last year, when the state saw a spike in infections. A record 31 fatalities were recorded last year.

So far, there are about 150 cases of West Nile in Los Angeles County, according to Laurene Mascola, chief of acute communicable disease control at the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Last year there were 218, making it the highest count since the initial outbreak in 2004, she said.

Mascola said things could get worse if El Niño brings as much rain as some predict.

"If the real impact is that there's going to be more water and higher temperatures, the mosquitoes will love that. So there'll be greater mosquito density, there'll be more places for mosquitoes to breed. You know, some people think, 'Well, the rain will just wash away all the mosquitoes.' But it might just wash them into the sewers, where it's even harder to get rid of them."

Mascola said it is important to wear repellent, long sleeves and pants to help prevent mosquito bites.