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Two county residents sickened with West Nile virus
Most often, West Nile Virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. - photo by Photo Contributed

Area health officials announced Friday that two Stanislaus County residents have been confirmed to have the West Nile Virus and that in both cases the two patients have developed the more serious neurologic disease.

The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency said a 53-year-old woman and a 64-year-old man are the first confirmed human West Nile Virus infections in Stanislaus County this year. The health department did not state what towns the two individuals live in.

As of Friday, there were 41 confirmed cases of West Nile virus in humans in nine California counties, including Stanislaus. The state has recorded 171 dead birds with the virus in 26 counties; 1,814 mosquito samples in 24 counties; and 58 sentinel chickens in five counties.

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. Hot weather, abandoned swimming pools and standing water create ideal conditions for the development of mosquitoes and the subsequent spread of the virus.

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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  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.

There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile Virus infection. People with milder illnesses typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks or months. In the neuroinvasive forms, patients can suffer severe and sometimes long-term symptoms.

“It is very important that people take precautions to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites,” said Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, the public health officer for Stanislaus County.

The Turlock Mosquito Abatement District had 52 mosquito samples test positive for West Nile virus as of Aug. 1. Within Turlock, the District had one dead bird test positive for West Nile virus. The dead bird was found in an area bordered by E. Canal Drive, N. Johnson Road, Sierra Street, and Lyons Avenue. Other dead birds testing positive for the virus have been found near W. Tuolumne and Crows Landing roads, and Jennings and W. Taylor roads.

Areas in Turlock that have had mosquito samples test positive for West Nile virus include: East Avenue and N. Daubenberger Road; East Avenue and M. Gratton Road; Story Road; E. Tuolumne Road and Lester Road; E. Tuolumne Road and N. Quincy Road; E. Tuolumne Road and E. Monte Vista Avenue; E. Keyes and Geer roads; E. Hawkeye Avenue and N. Berkeley Avenue; and W. Christoffersen Parkway between N. Walnut and Geer roads.

In the United States, most people are infected from June through September, and the number of these infections usually peaks in mid-August, according to the CDC. Seasonal outbreaks often occur in local areas that can vary from year to year. In Stanislaus County West Nile Virus typically starts to appear in April or May and will continue to have a presence through October. The weather can also be a significant factor in West Nile Virus outbreaks. The CDC reported higher number of cases during periods of abnormally high temperatures.

Public health officials recommend that individuals prevent exposure to mosquito bites and WNV by following the “Four Ds”:

1. DEET – Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR

3535 according to label instructions to keep mosquitoes from biting you. Apply

repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing. DEET can be used safely on infants and

children two (2) months of age and older.

2. DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes that carry WNV tend to bite in the early morning and

evening so it is important to wear repellent at this time. Make sure that your doors and

windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens

with tears or holes.

3. DRESS – Wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure to mosquito bites (i.e.,

long pants and long-sleeved shirts).

4. 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. Neglected swimming pools are also prime place for mosquito

breeding. The Turlock Mosquito Abatement District is available to help with neglected pools in the prevention of mosquito development. To request District

service, call 634- or visit the District website at