RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. -

A 78-year-old Riverside County man has been hospitalized with West Nile virus. It's the first human case of the virus confirmed in the county this year, according to Public Health oDr. Cameron Kaiser, public health official for Riverside County.

Health officials said the man lives in western Riverside County but they're trying to figure out where he was when he was bitten. The illness was confirmed earlier this week.

The virus is transmitted to humans and animals through a mosquito bite. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Health officials said the risk of serious illness to humans is low.

Most people who get West Nile virus won't experience any illness, but elderly folks and those with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk for serious illness, officials said.

"While West Nile is rarely life-threatening, it can be occasionally serious," Dr. Kaiser said. "Unlike the common cold, which is easily transmitted, the West Nile virus can only spread by mosquito bites and there are easy steps to take to reduce your risk of getting bitten."

Ways to protect yourself:

  • Avoid spending time outside when mosquitoes are most active, especially at dawn and dusk
  • Where long pants, long-sleeved shirts and other protective clothing outside
  • Apply EPA-registered insect repellant that contains DEET
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens and repair or replace screens that have tears or holes
  • Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property such as old tires, buckets, flower pots and toys (Standing water supports mosquito breeding)

There were 35 human cases of West Nile virus reported last year in Riverside County. In 2012, there were 19 confirmed human cases in the county, and there hasn't been a death from the virus since 2008, according to health officials.