The mosquito surveillance and control activities aimed at curbing the presence of West Nile virus are underway in Stanislaus County, just as two dead birds confirmed to have the virus were found in a neighboring county.
Health and mosquito abatement officials are asking residents to play their part by checking their property for standing water and telling their local mosquito abatement district if they are being bitten by mosquitoes.
"The mild winter weather may have allowed the mosquitoes a head start in becoming established," said David Heft, general manager of the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District. "So, we need the public's help in being diligent about dumping out any standing water and notifying their local district about neglected swimming pools."
West Nile virus has already been detected in six California counties, according to the California Department of Public Health. The most notable detection for Stanislaus County is the presence of two dead birds in neighboring San Joaquin County.
The San Joaquin County Mosquito and Vector Control District received confirmation Thursday that a common raven and a yellow-headed black bird collected in Manteca have tested positive for West Nile virus.
"Finding the first positive birds is significant because it means that the virus is present in our area" said John Stroh, district manager. "With the very mild winter and the warm temperatures we've had so far, it's not unusual to find positive birds at this time of year."
West Nile virus affects the central nervous system. The 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.
So far, there have been no human cases of West Nile virus reported in California. 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 CDPH.
The Turlock Mosquito Abatement District has just finished an aerial survey targeting neglected swimming pools and other sources of backyard mosquito-breeding; district staff is busy inspecting hundreds of swimming pools. With warmer temperatures however, conditions can change rapidly and the public is asked to report neglected pools or any other mosquito-breeding activity.
Residents are urged to report dead birds to the West Nile Virus state hotline at 1-877-968-2473 or online at www.westnile.ca.gov. Dead bird reports are an important tool for West Nile virus detection, even if the bird is not picked up and tested, without the reports high risk locations are harder to detect.
Residents are urged to help reduce their risk of getting mosquito-borne diseases by following these guidelines:
• Don't produce mosquitoes on your property. Dump or drain standing water. Mosquitoes can't begin their life without water.
• Defend yourself against mosquitoes using repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of Lemon
• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are present, typically dawn and dusk.
• Report neglected swimming pools by calling your local mosquito abatement district. Anonymous calls are accepted. Just one neglected pool can produce more than 1 million mosquitoes and affect people up to five miles away.
• All horse owners are also urged to consult their veterinarians about proper and timely West Nile Virus vaccinations.
To report mosquito-breeding problems, residents north of the Tuolumne River should call the Eastside Mosquito Abatement District at 522-4098 and all others should contact the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District at 634-1234.