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Turlock readies for mosquito season

POSTED April 23, 2013 11:00 p.m.

As spring turns to summer, members of the Turlock community are being told to gear up for mosquito season. 

As of last week, the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District has observed increased activity in adult mosquitoes near the Turlock community.

Though mosquito season has just begun, District officials are wary of the current activity following last year’s devastating outbreak, which soared across Stanislaus County, reaching record infection levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Twenty-six people were reported to have contracted WNV in 2012, the highest incidence rate to date in Stanislaus County since 2004.

In an effort to reduce the number of WNV infections this year through preventative measures, the State Legislature has named April 21-27 as West Nile Virus and Mosquito Control Awareness Week.

“We are very concerned for the public,” said TMAD General Manager David Heft. “We saw things last year we didn’t see before, and that worries us.”

In 2012, West Nile Virus was found in 479 human cases in California alone, a peak which has not been reached since the 2008 epidemic of 445 reported human cases.

“Ever since it came to the Valley in 2004, we’ve seen an increase over the years,” said Turlock veterinarian Craig Brooks. “Without exception, we’ve seen cases every year. The virus persists here more than any other area because we have ideal conditions for the mosquitoes in this county.”

In the United States, most people are infected from June through September, with the highest infections climaxing in mid-August, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Though standard peaks are seasoned to change based on location, the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District is not taking any chances.

In response, District officials ordered Hawkeye, Daubenberger, East Avenue and Soderquist to be sprayed last Wednesday. Residents are also urged to use an EPA-registered insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535.

Symptoms of the virus include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions and paralysis. One out of 150 infected persons may develop serious neurological illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).

Though symptoms may cease over the course of a few days, neurological effects can become permanent.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has also sent a warning to all horse owners urging them to consult with their local veterinarian to ensure that all horses are currently vaccinated against West Nile Virus. Brooks has witnessed roughly five WNV cases in horses a year within the Valley on average since 2004.

“You’ll know that your horse is infected if they run a fever, which some horse owners may or may not notice. The infection will develop fully in 10 days, and the neurological signs will develop,” said Brooks. “The basic signs are difficulty standing, incordination, particularly in the hind legs, and depression.”

In 2011, the first dead bird to test positive for the virus was found in June. Last year, the first was found in May. On April 11, Los Angeles County confirmed that one dead bird has tested positive this year.

As the report of infections grows earlier each year, community members are urged to wear protective skin ointment, repair or replace door and window screens with tears or holes, and drain standing water, where mosquitoes are most likely to lay their eggs.

This year, the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District is planning to host a neglected pools program to stop the reoccurring infestations in urban residences. The District will pay to have an airplane fly over residences in the area, and, using aerial photography, map out neglected water pools.

“They are still a major concern for us,” said Heft. “We are continuing to watch a trend. Last year was the first year a number of neglected pools went down due to housing prices. Hopefully, that is an indication that the foreclosed homes are closing down. Any empty swimming pools filled with rain water usually release a million mosquitoes, and we don’t know about them unless people call to report them.”

The Turlock Mosquito Abatement District is also offering free mosquito fish for horse troughs, swimming pools, or ponds near residential homes.

“The mosquito fish do an excellent job of keeping the mosquito population down, and we are very happy to give them away for free,” said Heft. “Stanislaus County is one of the most common regions to find mosquitoes, and the virus is much more active up here. The diseases that we are concerned with are all preventable, and we’ll do our best to keep the public safe.”

Residents are encouraged to call their local Mosquito Abatement District at 634-1234 to report suspected mosquito breeding locations, or visit http:www.mosquitoturlock.com.

Stanislaus County residents can call the Stanislaus County West Nile Virus Hotline at 558-8425 for recorded information on the virus.

To report dead birds, visit www.westnile.ca.gov or call 1-877-968-2473.

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