Merced County reported its first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus disease for 2011 on Friday. According to the Merced County Department of Public Health, the adult patient's symptoms began on Sept. 1. The patient, a resident of northern Merced County, was hospitalized beginning on Sept. 15. The patient was able to recover sufficiently from illness symptoms and was released from the hospital within a week. The patient is expected to make a full recovery.
This is the 41st Merced County resident who has been diagnosed with a reportable WNV condition since human cases were first reported in the county in 2004.
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.
In response to the new human case, the Merced County Department of Public Health is issuing a Health Advisory to local health care providers to enhance on-going surveillance and prevention efforts.
"This first confirmed illness in Merced County due to West Nile virus reminds us that we are moving into the high-risk season," said Dr. Tim Livermore, Merced County health officer. "While it is difficult to make predictions about the severity of West Nile virus this season, precautions should be taken to protect ourselves and our loved ones from mosquito bites.
"We need to be particularly concerned for those persons over 50 years of age and persons with weakened immune systems, from other diseases and medical conditions, as they have a greater risk of illness due to infection from the West Nile virus," added Dr. Livermore.
The Merced County Department of Public Health is working closely with the Merced County Mosquito Abatement District regarding this case and with other related WNV prevention and control activities.
MAD conducts enhanced surveillance and mosquito control activities where WNV cases have been identified.
"Residents can help in prevention efforts by eliminating standing water around their homes where mosquitoes might breed, keeping pools in good working order, and reporting suspected mosquito breeding sites or adult mosquito activity," said Allan Inman, manager of the Merced County Mosquito Abatement District. "We are depending on the public to help us focus our control efforts, particularly at this time - as last week's fatal horse case and our recent mosquito counts tell us that we have mosquitoes that are spreading this virus in our county."
Merced County residents can follow four simple ways to protect themselves from WNV:
• DEET - Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin or oil of lemon eucalyptus 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.
• DRESS - Dress in long sleeve shirts and long pants when you are outside. For extra protection, you may want to spray thin clothing with repellent.
• DAWN AND DUSK - Mosquitoes that carry WNV 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 or commercially available products to eliminate mosquito larvae.
For general information on WNV and steps individuals and families can take to protect themselves against West Nile Virus, visit: www.westnile.ca.gov. For more information on mosquito abatement in Merced County, visit: www.mcmosquito.org. 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.