PASADENA >> Pasadena Public Health Department officials confirmed on Wednesday that five people have become infected with West Nile Virus over the past month.
The last confirmed human case of West Nile Virus within the jurisdiction of the Pasadena Public Health Department was reported in December of 2012, Pasadena city officials said in a written statement. The Pasadena Public Health Department’s reporting jurisdiction encompasses the city of Pasadena, as well as portions of Altadena and San Marino, Pasadena spokesman William Boyer said.
“It is of concern,” Boyer said of the recent findings. “In extreme cases, it can be fatal. Our health department tracks this and we’re obligated to report out to the public when we have confirmed cases.”
None of the Pasadena-area WNV cases were fatal, Boyer said. But due to medical privacy laws, he said specific information regarding the WNV cases in Pasadena were not available.
“As far as I know, they’ve all sought treatment through their own physicians,” Boyer said. He added that none of the five cases were believed to involve major illness.
Symptoms of the virus, which is transmitted by bites from infected mosquitos, include fever, body ache, rash, nausea, vomiting and headache, health officials said.
“Up to about 80 percent of people infected have no apparent symptoms and can go undiagnosed,” according to the health department statement. “Severe cases, while rare, can include brain inflammation, paralysis or death.
Pasadena Health Department officials encouraged anyone who suspects possible WNV infection to seek medical care immediately.
“It’s certainly not the first time we’ve had West Nile Virus here in the Pasadena area, and it probably won’t be the last,” Boyer said.
The proportion of WNV-infected mosquitos detected in California is at an all-time high, officials said. And the risk of infection is highest during summer weather and drought conditions.
City health officials patrol the city at least once a week to treat gutters, puddles and other collections of standing water, where mosquitos breed. Pasadena Public Health Department officials said they collaborate with police to search for stagnant pools and green standing water from the air.
“We want people to be aware. We want people to take precautions,” Boyer said.
The risk of getting bitten is highest around dusk and dawn, he added.
To reduce the risk of getting WNV, state and local health officials suggest residents empty all standing water containers left outside, check for mosquito larvae in any standing water,wear long sleeves and pants when outside, wear insect repellents containing DEET, avoid areas known to be inhabited by mosquitos around dusk and dawn and keep swimming pools well-maintained.
As the hot summer months prompt some people to sleep with windows open, Boyer advised them to make sure that screens are in place and free from holes to prevent the bloodthirtsy insects from getting indoors.
So far this year, 311 human cases of WNV have been reported in California, according to the California Department of Public Health. Seventy-three new cases were reported over the past week alone, with 20 of them in Los Angeles County.
Twelve WNV-related deaths have been reported this year, officials added. Three deaths have been reported in Orange County; two have been reported in Los Angeles County; two were reported in Sutter County; two were reported in Stanislaus County; and single WNV-related deaths have been reported in Glenn, Sacramento and Shasta counties.
The number of humans infected with the virus this year more than doubles the 150 human infections reported at the same point last year, and more than triples the five-year average of 95 cases, according to state data.
But while the numbers of cases are increasing, fewer counties have reported WNV detection so far this year than last.
The virus has turned up in 38 California counties so far this year, compared with 41 affected counties as of Sept. 17, 2013. An average of 37 counties have reported finding WNV over the past five years.
More than 2,800 infected mosquito samples have been found during 2014, officials said. Officials turned up 193 new infected mosquito samples throughout California over the past week, with 24 of them found in Los Angeles County.
Health officials have detected 2,017 dead birds infected with the virus statewide this year, according to the California Department of Public Health. Thirty-eight infected birds were discovered over the past week, though none were found in Los Angeles County.
To report stagnant water, residents are encouraged to contact the Pasadena Public Health Departments Environmental Health Division at 626-744-6004.
Dead birds and squirrels can be reported to the West Nile Virus and Dead Bird Hotline at 877-968-2473.
For more information, visit www.westnile.ca.gov, or www.cdc.gov.westnile.