The battle against mosquitoes and their potential to spread the West Nile Virus has begun in Stanislaus County and residents are being asked to do their part.
The Turlock Mosquito Abatement District and the Eastside Mosquito Abatement District have begun mosquito surveillance and control activities in their respective territories and are asking residents to help by eliminating standing water on their property and informing their local mosquito abatement district if they are being bitten by mosquitoes during the daytime.
Mosquitoes like to breed in stagnant water, preferring weedy areas that provide cover. The lagoons at dairy farms make for perfect breeding grounds, but so do flooded fields, uncared for swimming pools, urban catch basins, overwatered lawns, and pretty much anything that holds water and allows it to stagnate.
Aerial surveillance photography targeting neglected swimming pools and other mosquito-breeding sources have been taken throughout the county. Mosquito Control staff continues ongoing inspections and treatments of these mosquito-breeding sources to try to eliminate mosquito populations and prevent the spread of diseases like West Nile Virus.
The effort to keep the mosquito population in check is being undertaken in the hopes it will lessen the number of cases of West Nile Virus in the area. In 2015, there were 13 individuals diagnosed with West Nile Virus within Stanislaus County, with no fatalities. The numbers of WNV human cases were down from 2014 in Stanislaus County, which recorded 38 WNV cases and two deaths. In California, there were 783 human cases of the disease resulting in 53 fatalities according to CDPH in 2015.
The 2015 records for the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District show there were four human cases of WNV in the District, five dead birds with the virus, and 76 mosquito samples that tested positive for the virus.
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. Dead bird reports are an important tool for West Nile Virus detection, even if the bird is not picked up and tested, because it can give the Districts an idea of the higher risk locations.
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.
A report from the CDC indicates that for every one diagnosed case of West Nile Virus another 150 people have the disease and are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
It’s not just West Nile Virus that is posing a concern this year, as health officials continue to monitor the spread of the Zika virus. To date, the types of mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus have not been detected in Stanislaus County.
“There are no locally mosquito transmitted cases of Zika, Dengue or Chikungunya virus in California. We are actively trapping for the invasive species of mosquitoes that carry these diseases,” states Lloyd Douglass, Manager of East Side Mosquito Abatement. “West Nile Virus, however, is in Stanislaus County and we urge people to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.”
The California Department of Public Health has confirmed one case of the Zika virus in the state. The case involved a transmission through sexual contact with an infected partner, who had recently returned from a country where the Zika virus is circulating. The woman and her partner have since recovered from the virus, the CDPH reported.
A man infected with Zika virus can spread it to his sexual partners. It is not known how long after infection a man can spread Zika virus to sexual partners. At this time, there is no evidence that women can transmit Zika virus to their sexual partners. The CDPH recommends that if men have traveled to an area where Zika virus is circulating, they abstain from sex or diligently use condoms with a partner who is pregnant or trying to become pregnant for the duration of the pregnancy. These cautions apply to vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Women who want to get pregnant, whose partner has had exposure to Zika virus, should discuss with their health care provider any potential risk of Zika virus during pregnancy. The virus can spread from a woman to her child during pregnancy and the infection is believed to lead to neurologic complications in the infant, including microcephaly, which is a birth defect in which the baby is born with a smaller-than-normal head due to abnormal brain development.
Most people infected with Zika virus will not develop symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they are usually mild and include fever, rash, joint pain and eye redness. While there is no specific treatment for Zika virus disease, the best recommendations are supportive care, rest, fluids and medications for relief of fever.
People can help reduce the risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases by following these guidelines:
· Dump or drain standing water. Mosquitoes prefer to lay eggs in stagnant water.
· Defend yourself against mosquitoes using repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
· Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
· Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are present, typically dawn and dusk.
· Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes indoors, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
· Report neglected swimming pools by calling your local mosquito abatement district. Anonymous calls accepted.
There are two mosquito abatement districts to serve residents in Stanislaus County. Residents north of the Tuolumne River should contact the Eastside Mosquito Abatement District at 522-4098. Residents south of the Tuolumne River should contact the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District at turlockmosquito.org or 634-1234. Residents are urged to continue to report dead birds to the WNV State Hotline at 1-877-968-2473.