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West Nile Virus Killed 28 People from California this Year

Update Date: Nov 02, 2015 01:17 PM EST
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California health officials reported that the West Nile virus has killed 28 people within the state so far in 2015.

The fatalities were reported in Butte (1), Kern (1), Los Angeles (8), Nevada (1), Orange (3), Riverside (6), San Bernardino (2), San Diego (5) and Ventura (1) counties. The officials noted that the majority of the deaths were in senior citizens, who have a higher risk of getting ill and developing complications.

The report published on the California Department of Health's website stated that as of this past Friday, there have been 517 positive cases in 30 counties. A total of 33 counties reported virus activity, which is four more than last year's count (at around this time).

"West Nile virus activity is more widespread in 2015 than in years past," California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Karen Smith said in a previous statement. "Californians need to be vigilant in protecting themselves."

West Nile is transmitted via a bite from an infected mosquito. The risk of serious illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis, is low with less than one percent developing these neurological complications. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands and skin rash. More severe symptoms might include stiff neck, sleepiness, coma, convulsions and paralysis.

Experts believe that the surge in the number of West Nile cases could be tied to the drought. Since there are fewer water sources, the mosquitoes could be relocating to areas that are closer to humans.

Experts are recommending people wear protective clothing and use insect repellant, especially if they will be out during the dawn and dusk, which is when mosquitoes tend to be the most active.

The record number of deaths linked to West Nile in California is 31, which happened in 2014.

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