California officials have recently confirmed that the state has recorded its first death in 2021 related to the West Nile virus.

The victim was identified to be from San Luis Obispo County, the California Department of Public Health said. However, the department did not release additional information regarding the case.

“West Nile virus activity in the state is increasing, so I urge Californians to take every possible precaution to protect against mosquito bites,” Dr. Tomas Aragon, California public health officer and health department director, said.

West Nile Virus

Experts said the West Nile virus commonly spread across a region through bites of infected mosquitoes. The health department said the virus has been identified in 188 species of mosquitoes that originate from 13 counties across the state.

“Hot temperatures this month are contributing to increasing numbers or mosquitoes and the increased risk of virus transmission to humans,” the release said. It added that while the threat is high, the activity was within the expected levels for this summer.

Health experts noted that the West Nile virus caused symptoms such as fatigue, fever, headache, body aches, rash and swollen lymph nodes. However, they emphasized that 80% of infected individuals do not show any symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

While the infection has a very low chance of causing severe cases, residents who are 50 years or older or people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension have a greater chance of being infected by the virus, the state health department said.

The CDC said less than 1% of all confirmed cases result in serious neuroinvasive illness, including encephalitis, which causes the brain to swell or meningitis, which is the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

Currently, there is no vaccine or specific treatment that could cure the West Nile infection. Health department officials recommend wearing proper clothing and mosquito repellent if going outside. They emphasized the need to protect one’s self is more crucial during the early morning or evening, CNN reported.

They also recommended sealing windows and doors with tight-fitting screens to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside homes. Since the insects lay eggs on standing water, officials urged residents to eliminate all sources of standing water to prevent the insects from multiplying out of control.