County's first West Nile infections of 2018 confirmed

RIVERSIDE, Calif.- - Riverside County's first two West Nile virus infections of the year were confirmed today by the Department of Public Health.

According to county officials, a 74-year-old Riverside woman and a 50-year-old Eastvale man were admitted to hospitals for treatment.

Both are expected to fully recover.

The Department of Public Health said the patients underwent tests earlier this week that verified they were infected with West Nile, though it was not clear when they began exhibiting symptoms and officials would not say when they were hospitalized.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the Riverside County WNV cases are the first recorded statewide so far in 2018. Last year, there were 553 cases, 44 of them fatal, agency data showed.

In Riverside County, 33 human infections were documented in 2017, and 10 in 2016. The last WNV-related fatality was in 2015, according to health officials.

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

Vector control officials have netted mosquito samples in eastern and western county areas where the virus was present. Online mosquito surveillance maps provided by the county showed a high-degree of WNV activity recently on the north tip of the Salton Sea.

The maps are available here:

Mosquitoes typically become carriers of West Nile virus after feeding on an infected bird and can then spread the potentially lethal strain to animals and humans. Those at greatest risk include seniors and individuals with compromised immune systems.

Symptoms may never materialize but can include fever, headache, nausea, body aches, skin rashes and swollen lymph nodes.   

Mosquito season in Southern California generally spans May to October. To reduce exposure to WNV, residents are urged to: 

 -- spend as little time as possible outdoors at dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes are generally on the move;

-- wear pants and long-sleeved shirts during outdoor activity, especially in the early morning and evening hours;-- use insect repellent;

-- ensure door and window screens are fitted properly to keep bugs out; and

-- get rid of standing water, aside from pools properly treated with chemicals.

Anyone with concerns about WNV, mosquitoes, neglected pools or standing water can contact the Riverside County Vector Control office at (951) 766-9454. More information is also available here.

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