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West Nile activity remains strong in county

Six new cases of human WNV reported after Sept. 10

POSTED September 28, 2012 1:21 p.m.

West Nile Virus continues to wreak havoc across the state and in Stanislaus County, as public health officials are reporting a total of 21 cases of human WNV in the county.

Six of those cases occurred after Sept. 10, indicating that the level of West Nile Virus in the county remains high. In addition to human cases, the Mosquito Abatement Districts in Stanislaus County are continuing to collect birds and mosquitoes infected with the virus.

“We’re still seeing a lot of activity in the southeast side of Turlock toward Denair to the Merced County border,” said Turlock Mosquito Abatement District general manager David Heft. “Human cases keep popping up; the last human case from Turlock was two weeks ago. We’ve had five cases total in the district, two cases in Turlock proper; all have come within last month.”

The Turlock Mosquito Abatement District includes the cities of Newman, Patterson, Turlock, Hughson, Ceres, and unincorporated areas within the county of Stanislaus.

Statewide, 39 counties have reported the presence of the virus, including 26 with human cases. There have been 182 human cases in California and eight fatalities, including a recent death in Merced County.

Across the country, there have been 3,545 human cases reported as of Thursday and 147 fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of these, 1,816 or 51 percent were classified as neuroinvasive disease, such as meningitis or encephalitis, and 1,729, or 49 percent, were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease.

The 3,545 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to the CDC through the last week in September since 2003. Seventy percent of the cases have been reported from eight states: Texas, Mississippi, South Dakota, Michigan, California, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Illinois. The West Nile virus has been detected in 48 states.

A majority of the outbreak has occurred in Texas, where there have been 1,355 human cases and 52 deaths.

West Nile Virus can remain active through October in Stanislaus County and residents are urged to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

“We do see a lot of activity in September with human cases because they usually happen at the end of season, but this year in general has been another level above that,” Heft said.

With harvest festivals, football games and other evening events, the potential for exposure to WNV infected mosquitoes increases during September and October.

“One victim we interviewed said ‘Yeah, I got a can of DEET right there,’ but he just didn’t use it,” said Heft.

Approximately 1 in 5 people who are infected with West Nile virus will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Less than 1 percent will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die, according to the CDC.  People over 50 years of age and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and organ transplants, are at greater risk for serious illness.

There are no medications to treat, or vaccines to prevent, West Nile virus infection. People with milder illnesses typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks or months. In the neuroinvasive forms, patients can suffer severe and sometimes long-term symptoms.

The most effective way for individuals to prevent exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile virus is to remember the “Three D’s”:

1. DEFEND – Use an EPA-registered insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 according to label instructions. Repellents keep the mosquitoes from biting you. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.

2. DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes that carry WNV bite in the early morning and evening. It is important to use repellent and wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure to mosquito bites during this time. Make sure your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.

3. DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including buckets, old car tires, and pet bowls. If you have a pond, use mosquito fish (available from your local mosquito and vector control agency) or commercially available products to eliminate mosquito larvae.

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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