Two elderly men from the San Fernando Valley died from West Nile Virus recently – the first deaths of 2016 from the illness in Los Angeles County, health officials said Friday.
The two men were both hospitalized in August and died from West Nile-associated encephalitis, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The county has seen 68 documented West Nile infections in 2016 – a higher number than seen last year by this time.
Health officials noted that people over 50 and those with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to the virus.
“This serves as a warning that West Nile virus is a serious disease that may lead to hospitalization and can even result in death,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer. “Older adults and people with weak immune systems are at highest risk of severe illness.”
California has seen 108 human infections this year, including four deaths.
In 2015, Los Angeles County saw 300 human infections and 24 deaths from West Nile. The peak season for the virus starts in September and goes through November, health officials said.
West Nile is spread by mosquitoes. Precautions to reduce the risk of infection include avoiding mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk, using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants and eliminating standing water.