A resident in San Luis Obispo County has died from complications of West Nile virus, according to the county Public Health Department.

It’s the first reported case of the West Nile virus in California in 2021, as well as the first death from the mosquito-borne disease, a San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department news release said.

“We extend our sincere condolences to this patient’s family,” Dr. Penny Borenstein, county Public Health officer, said in the release. “This loss is a tragic reminder that West Nile virus is here in California and can cause very serious illness. Please, be sure to protect yourself from mosquito bites and drain any sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed.”

The person likely did not contract the virus in San Luis Obispo County, the release said. Instead, they probably caught the illness while traveling to an area of California where mosquitoes regularly test positive for the West Nile virus.

There have been more than 300 deaths from West Nile virus in California since 2003, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Infected mosquitoes transmit the West Nile virus by biting humans, most of whom don’t experience any symptoms, the county release said.

About one in five West Nile patients experience flu-like symptoms, and less than 1% of those infected experience a serious neurologic illness.

People older than 50 and those with medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from West Nile.

Viral activity increases seasonally and fluctuate with the growth of mosquito populations.

“West Nile virus activity in the state is increasing, so I urge Californians to take every possible precaution to protect against mosquito bites,” Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health and state Public Health Officer, said in a news release.

How to Prevent West Nile Virus

To prevent West Nile virus, the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department encourages residents to wear protective clothing and use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Health officials suggest taking protective measures against mosquitoes at dawn and dusk, when the insects are the most active.

Residents should also make sure to repair screens, drain standing water, clean outdoor water sources and clear roof gutters to promote proper draining.

For more information, visit westnile.ca.gov or slocounty.ca.gov/Pests.

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