West Nile virus has killed 8 Californians this year. In parts of L.A. County, the risk is especially high

From The Los Angeles Times
September 23, 2017

Julie Shepherd ended up in the hospital earlier this month after her neighbor found her on the floor of her West Covina home, unable to move.

Shepherd, 84, was paralyzed and had lost the ability to speak. Doctors diagnosed her illness as West Nile virus.

Humans contract the virus through a mosquito bite. There’s no vaccine or cure for the disease, so Shepherd’s family could only wait to see if she recovered on her own.

“Other than treating the symptoms, there’s no treatment,” said Halie Griffin, Shepherd’s granddaughter. “[The doctors] told us that within 10 to 15 days either you’ll see improvement, or you won’t.”

Shepherd was unable to fight off the virus and died Monday.

West Nile virus has killed three people in Los Angeles County this year. It’s the deadliest mosquito-borne disease in California. Though most people with West Nile virus don’t have symptoms, a small number experience brain damage that can be permanent or fatal.

L.A. County officials are warning residents to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, especially since West Nile cases tend to be highest in September.

“Everybody needs to be concerned,” said Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, deputy director of the L.A. County public health department’s acute communicable disease program. “This is really the peak season for West Nile in Los Angeles County.”

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