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Laguna Beach woman tests positive for West Nile virus; first case in O.C. this year

(FILES) A mosquito is bloated with blood
West Nile virus is most commonly spread through mosquitoes that contract the virus when they feed on infected birds.
(File photo)

A Laguna Beach woman is the first person to test positive for West Nile virus in Orange County this year, the county Health Care Agency said Friday.

A routine test at a blood bank last week revealed that the woman, who is in her 70s, is infected with the virus. She did not have any symptoms, according to the agency.

West Nile virus is most commonly spread through mosquitoes that contract the virus when they feed on infected birds. Mosquito bites can spread the illness to humans and animals.

It isn’t clear where or when the Laguna woman became infected. Her name was not disclosed.

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Also on Friday, the city of Costa Mesa said a mosquito infected with West Nile has been found recently in a vector control trap in a drainage ditch at the south end of Fairview Park.

The area has been treated for mosquitoes, officials said, and will be closely monitored.

Last year in Orange County there were 36 reported human infections and one death related to West Nile.

“West Nile virus is endemic in Orange County, recurring every year during the summer months and continuing into the fall,” Dr. Eric Handler, county health officer, said in a statement.

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Most people who become infected with West Nile virus do not experience symptoms, but about 20% will develop a fever and may have headaches, body aches, nausea, tiredness and sometimes a skin rash, according to the Health Care Agency.

Experts say people who believe they are infected should see a doctor. Symptoms such as severe headaches, neck stiffness, confusion, muscle weakness and paralysis are rare but should be treated immediately, according to the agency.

People older than 60 and those who have other illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants are at increased risk of serious complications from the virus, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The best way to avoid West Nile virus infection is to take precautionary measures to avoid mosquito bites,” Handler said.

To that end, the Health Care Agency recommends that people:

  • Empty all standing water on their property to reduce areas where mosquitoes may breed
  • Make sure window and door screens are in good condition
  • Use insect repellent
  • Limit outdoor activity at dawn and dusk
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors

Staff writer Luke Money contributed to this report.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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UPDATES:

7:50 p.m.: This article was updated to clarify that one mosquito was found in a trap in a drainage ditch at the south end of Fairview Park.

This article was originally published at 5:50 p.m.


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