With the approach of fall, mosquito abatement districts and public health officials are warning of increased West Nile Virus activity.
The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency reported five people in the county have thus far been sickened by West Nile Virus, with four of those individuals requiring hospitalization.
West Nile Virus has traditionally remained active in Stanislaus County after Labor Day weekend and into the fall. Last year, three of the 12 cases reported in the county became ill in September and October.
“The changes in weather and harvesting of farm crops create the right environment for mosquitoes to begin migrating into residential communities,” said Lloyd Douglass, manager East Side Mosquito Abatement District. “With positive West Nile Virus mosquito samples and human cases, everyone should wear insect repellent anytime they go outdoors.”
Most often, West Nile Virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread West Nile Virus to humans and other animals when they bite, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
About one in 150 people infected with West Nile Virus will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
Approximately 80 percent of people — about four out of five — who are infected with West Nile Virus will not show any symptoms at all, the CDC reported.
People typically develop symptoms between three and 14 days after they are bitten by an infected mosquito.
The area mosquito abatement districts in Stanislaus and Merced counties have stepped up spraying for mosquitoes, using both ground and aerial equipment.
Recently infected mosquitoes were found in Delhi, Hilmar and Merced.
Abatement officials are concerned about mosquito populations building up in neglected swimming pools and backyard water features. The abatement districts will provide mosquito fish, free of charge, to put in ornamental ponds and other backyard locations.
People can protect themselves from mosquito bites by:
• DEET – Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 according to label instructions. Repellents help prevent mosquito bites. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.
• DRESS – Wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure to mosquito bites.
• DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes bite in the early morning and evening so it is important to wear repellent at these times. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.
• DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flower pots, old car tires, rain gutters 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 pool or ornamental pond 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 can call Turlock Mosquito Abatement District at 634-1234. All horse owners are also 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).
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.