L.A. County health department confirms first West Nile death of 2014

Statewide, 129 human cases of West Nile have been reported in 36 counties.

Health officials have confirmed Los Angeles County's first death from West Nile virus in 2014.

On Friday, the county's Department of Public Health announced that a San Fernando Valley man had died as a result of infection with the mosquito-borne virus. The victim, who was in his 60s and suffered from preexisting health woes, was in a hospital at the time he died, according to the health department statement. 

Thus far this year, 20 people in Los Angeles County are known to have contracted West Nile virus. Last year, 165 human cases were reported -- "among the highest counts documented since 2004," the department noted.

Statewide, the California Department of Public Health said as of Wednesday, 129 human cases of West Nile have been reported in 36 counties. This week, Orange County's public health department reported two West Nile deaths.

West Nile disease is transmitted to humans when they're bitten by an infected mosquito, according to information provided by the L.A. County health agency. Most mosquitoes are not infected, and most people who are bitten by an infected mosquito never get seriously ill. In rare cases, people who do become seriously ill can develop encephalitis, which can be fatal.

"Although most people bitten by a mosquito are not exposed to West Nile Virus, some individuals may become infected with this disease and may experience symptoms that can last for months or even years, such as fatigue, malaise and depression," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, director of the public health agency.

Fielding advised residents to reduce their risk of mosquito bites by removing standing water around their homes and using an insect repellent containing DEET when outdoors, especially during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

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