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La Jolla man, 53, is year’s first human West Nile virus case, county says

West Nile virus can be transmitted to people by certain species of native San Diego County mosquitoes.
West Nile virus can be transmitted to people by certain species of native San Diego County mosquitoes that first feed on an infected bird or animal and then a bite a person.
(San Diego County communications office)

A 53-year-old La Jolla resident is the first locally acquired human case of West Nile virus this year, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency announced Sept. 17.

The man was hospitalized but is expected to recover, the county said.

There was one West Nile virus case in San Diego County in 2020, three in 2019 and two in 2018. West Nile can be transmitted to people by certain species of native San Diego County mosquitoes that first feed on an infected bird or animal and then a bite a person.

At least 80 percent of people who become infected with West Nile virus never know it and don’t suffer any symptoms. About one in five infected people develop a fever and other symptoms such as headache, nausea, fatigue, skin rash or swollen glands. About one out of 150 will develop serious illness.

County health officials said the best way for people to protect themselves from the virus is to follow the county’s “Prevent, Protect, Report” guidelines.

The guidelines also could help protect against invasive Aedes mosquitoes that can transmit tropical diseases such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

The county recommends emptying or removing any item inside or outside of homes that can hold water, such as plant saucers, rain gutters, buckets, garbage cans, toys, old tires and wheelbarrows. Mosquito fish, available for free by contacting the county’s vector control program, may be used to control mosquito breeding in backyard water sources such as unused swimming pools, ponds, fountains and horse troughs.

People can protect themselves from mosquito-borne illnesses by wearing long sleeves and pants or using repellent when outdoors. People are advised to use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. They’re also encouraged to make sure screens on windows and doors are in good condition and secured to keep insects out.

Residents can report increased mosquito activity or neglected, green swimming pools and other mosquito-breeding sources, as well as dead birds — crows, ravens, jays, hawks and owls — by calling (858) 694-2888 or emailing vector@sdcounty.ca.gov.

Residents also are asked to report if they are being bitten by mosquitoes during daylight hours or if they find mosquitoes that match the description of Aedes mosquitoes — black with white markings on the legs and back. ◆