West Nile Virus death reported in Los Angeles County
First death of 2021 reinforces need for all
to take precautions against mosquitoes
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has confirmed the first death due to West Nile virus for the 2021 season in Los Angeles County. The patient, a resident of the eastern region of Los Angeles County, was hospitalized and died from WNV-associated neuro-invasive disease.
“To the family and friends feeling the sorrow of losing this person due to WNV, we send you our deepest sympathies,” said Muntu Davis, M.D., Los Angeles County health officer. “West Nile virus can be a serious health threat to people who get infected. People should regularly check for items that can hold water and breed mosquitoes, both inside and outside their homes, and to cover, clean or throw out those items.
"I encourage everyone to protect themselves from diseases spread by mosquitoes by using EPA-registered mosquito repellent products as directed, and wear clothing that covers your arms and legs,” Davis said.
Humans get the virus through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most mosquitoes do not carry the virus; therefore, most people bitten by a mosquito are not exposed to WNV. Those who do get it may experience mild symptoms including fever, muscle aches, and tiredness. In some cases, especially in persons over 50 years of age and those with chronic medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes, severe WNV infection can occur and affect the brain and spinal cord causing meningitis, encephalitis, and paralysis. There is no specific treatment for WNV disease and no vaccine to prevent infection.
A total of 10 cases have been documented in the County so far this year. West Nile Virus-infected mosquitoes, dead birds, and sentinel chickens have been identified across LA County. Public Health monitors cases of WNV infection and collaborates with local vector control agencies to reduce the risk of WNV to humans by promoting prevention and mosquito reduction.
Decrease your risk of exposure. Protect yourself: Mosquito repellents can keep mosquitoes from biting you. EPA-registered repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, 2-undecanone, and oil of lemon eucalyptus are the longest lasting and most effective. They are available as sprays, wipes, and lotions. Find the repellent that’s right for you here. Consider wearing long-sleeved clothes and pants when outside.
Mosquito-proof your home. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes. Reduce mosquitos: Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Check for items that hold water inside and outside your home once a week. Cover water
storage containers such as buckets and rain barrels. If no lid, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito. Clear standing water in flower pots, saucers, birdbaths and other containers, and clean and maintain swimming pools, spas and drain water from pool covers. Throw away old items in your patio or yard that can hold water, e.g., old car tires and children’s toys.
Call 2-1-1 or visit www.socalmosquito.org to report persistent problems to your mosquito control district.
More information and resources: West Nile virus in LA County: http://publichealth.lacounty. gov/acd/ VectorWestNile.htm
West Nile virus information by phone: (800) 232-4636. West Nile virus in California: http://westnile.ca.gov
Health education materials on mosquito control and preventing West Nile virus infections: http://www.socal mosquito.org It's Not Just A Bite, a mosquito-borne disease public health campaign http://bit.ly/NotJustABite
Where to call with questions about mosquitoes:
Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District: (562)944-9656. Los Angeles County West Vector Control District: (310) 915-7370. San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District: (626) 814-9466; Antelope Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District: (661) 942-2917; Compton Creek Mosquito Abatement District: (310) 933- 5321; Pasadena City Health Department: (626) 744-6004; City of Long Beach Vector Control Program: (562) 570- 4132
Stagnant swimming pools or “green pools” should be reported to the Public Health Environmental Health Bureau at (626) 430-5200, or to a local vector control agency. Dead birds may be reported by calling (877) 968-2473 or online: https://westnile.ca.gov/report.php
Going the distance by bus through
Transit ridership has plummeted because of COVID-19, but hundreds of thousands of Angelinos still rely on buses and trains to travel, often because they have no other choice
L.A. Metro bus driver Voris Lombard sits behind a partial Plexiglas shield and wears gloves and a mask while driving. After each shift, Lombard removes his uniform and shoes before entering his home, he says. “It’s almost like you’re going through a hazmat routine.” Photo by Heidi de Marco/California Healthline
By HEIDI DE MARCO, Contributing Writer
LOS ANGELES — Mary Pierson boarded a nearly empty L.A. Metro bus at the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Riggin Street in Monterey Park one recent afternoon.
Pierson, 69, uses a wheelchair and relies on public transportation to get around. She takes the bus a few times a week from Long Beach to various parts of Los Angeles to run errands and shop for groceries. Today, she took the No. 68 to the bank.
“I’m glad they’re still running,” said Pierson, who wears a mask, gloves and sunglasses on board and disinfects her wheelchair after every trip. “I live alone and need to get out of the house.”
She’s also often alone on the bus. Transit ridership has plummeted since mid-March, when states began imposing stay-at-home orders. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, known as L.A. Metro, said ridership has fallen 64 percent on buses — about 1.2 million people rode them each day before COVID-19 hit — and by 76 percent on rail.
Despite the risk of the coronavirus in public places, people are still boarding public buses and trains because they have no other options to get to work, go shopping, and fill prescriptions.
“We’re still seeing over 400,000 people per day,” said Brian Haas, communications manager for L.A. Metro. “What that tells us is that we’re a lifeline for people.”
Perhaps the most vulnerable are the bus drivers and train operators. The Transport Workers Union of America has lost 96 members to COVID-19, the vast majority in New York City, the union says. None of the fatalities have been in California.
New methods of sanitation and decontamination, like ultraviolet lighting, should be used, said John Samuelsen, the union’s president. “Masks are the very minimum of what can be done to increase everybody’s safety,” he said. “We need to be thinking about what post-pandemic public transport will look like.”
To date, L.A. Metro has supplied front-line employees with more than 715,000 pairs of gloves, 385,000 masks, and 40,000 bottles of personal hand sanitizer.
Until recently, face coverings had been optional on public transit in L.A. County.
But in early May, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that all passengers on all Los Angeles Department of Transportation buses would be required to wear face coverings to reduce the spread of the virus. The department is a municipal agency that operates within the city and is separate from L.A. Metro. L.A. Metro started requiring passengers to wear face coverings May 11.
Because of the low ridership numbers, social distancing is usually not a problem on buses, said L.A. Metro bus driver Voris Lombard. “When people get on the bus, they have plenty of room to sit.”
This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.