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Local girl tests positive for West Nile virus

POSTED July 13, 2012 6:03 p.m.

A 6-year-old girl sickened with the West Nile virus is the first confirmed human case in Stanislaus County this year.

The young girl first presented symptoms on July 6 with weakness in her right arm, difficulty speaking, and the inability to walk, according to the Stanislaus County health Services Agency. The girl was medically evacuated to a pediatric specialty hospital out of the area and her symptoms are improving, public health reported.

The California Department of Public Health Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory confirmed the test results were positive for West Nile virus on Friday, said Stanislaus County Public Health Officer Dr. John Walker.

The girl is the second confirmed case of West Nile virus in humans found in California so far this year. A 70-year-old woman from Kern County was found to have the virus in June. There have been no fatalities reported from West Nile Virus so far this year.

West Nile virus is hosted by birds and transmitted to mosquitoes through their bites. Most people infected with West Nile virus will not experience any symptoms. Some will have mild symptoms, including fever, rash, nausea and headaches. For a few individuals the virus can cause a severe illness and even death. However, some individuals – less than 1 percent – will develop serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis.

People 50 years of age and older have a higher chance of getting sick and are more likely to develop serious symptoms. In 2009, a seven-year-old girl was infected with the neuroinvasive form of West Nile Virus. She has been progressively recovering and improving, however, still requires substantial rehabilitation, according to the public health department.

Last year there were 158 reported human cases and nine deaths in the state. There were 11 confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in Stanislaus County in 2011, making it one of the more active West Nile virus regions in the state, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Since 2004, there have been 110 fatal cases of West Nile virus in California.

Mosquito abatement and public health officials are reporting a significant increase in the presence of the West Nile Virus, both locally and at the state level.

 “From our surveillance it appears that West Nile Virus is very active in the county this year,” said Walker. “It is vital that the public know how to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

Last year at this time there were 12 counties where the presence of the West Nile virus had been confirmed. This year there are 20 confirmed counties. The number of dead birds and mosquitoes with the virus has also skyrocketed this year. As of Wednesday, there were 353 dead birds with the virus reported in California. In 2011, during the same reporting time, there were 44, according to the CDPH. This year there have been 370 positive mosquito samples, compared to 46 last year.

People can use these simple steps to help protect themselves and others from mosquito bites and West Nile virus:

• Apply insect repellent containing the active ingredient DEET, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or

Picaridin when outdoors, according to label instructions.

• Dump or drain sources of standing water. During warm weather, mosquitoes can breed within four days.

• Change the water in pet dishes and regularly replace water in birdbaths. Drill holes in tire swings so water can drain.

• Avoid spending time outside when mosquitoes are most active, at dawn and dusk, and especially for the first two hours after sunset.

• When outdoors, wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and other protective clothing.

• Keep mosquitoes out of your home with tight fitting screens on doors and windows.

Residents can call their local Mosquito Abatement District to report a neglected swimming pools or ornamental ponds or with questions or concerns. In Stanislaus County, north of the Tuolumne River call East Side Mosquito Abatement District at 522-4098. All other residents may call Turlock Mosquito Abatement District at 634-1234. All horse owners are urged to consult their veterinarians about proper and timely West Nile virus vaccinations.

The public can report dead birds to the California Department of Health Services by logging on to http://westnile.ca.gov/cfm/deadbird.cfm or by calling toll-free 1-877-WNV-BIRD (1-877-968-2473).

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