The West Nile season has officially begun with the announcement that several dead birds with the virus have been found recently in Stanislaus County.
The East Side and Turlock Mosquito Abatement districts have had multiple dead birds and mosquitoes test positive for the virus. The Turlock district reported finding one dead bird with the West Nile Virus in Turlock and two mosquito pools that tested positive in Turlock and Hughson. The East Side district found the virus present in a mosquito pool in Valley Home and have found four dead birds with the virus in Modesto.
The mosquito abatement districts said this is the first detection of the West Nile Virus in the county this year and warned that the virus is showing up earlier than typically seen in other years.
“This early detection of so much West Nile Virus activity, not only in Stanislaus County, but in the State in general, has us concerned,” said David Heft, general manager of the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District. “Scientists have shown that warm spring temperatures have a high correlation with West Nile activity later in the summer months, and I believe we may be seeing just that. Our hope is to raise public awareness regarding this heightened disease potential so that individuals may take necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families.”
State wide, the West Nile Virus has been found in 18 counties with a total of 169 dead birds testing positive, according to the California Department of Public Health. As to date there have been no human cases reported this year.
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals through a mosquito bite. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds.
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 Centers for Disease Control. Seasonal outbreaks often occur in local areas that can vary from year to year. For example, Stanislaus County had at least one human case reported in October 2011.
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.
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.
People can use these simple steps to help people protect themselves and others from mosquito bites and West Nile virus:
• Eliminate sources of standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs.
• Avoid spending time outside when mosquitoes are most active, at dawn and dusk, and especially for the first two hours after sunset.
• When outdoors, wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and other protective clothing.
• Exclude mosquitoes from your home with tight fitting screens on doors and windows.
• Apply insect repellent containing the active ingredient DEET when outdoors, according to label instructions.
• In addition to DEET-based products, the Centers for Disease Control also recommends insect repellants containing oil of lemon eucalyptus and Picaridin.
Both East Side and Turlock Mosquito Abatement districts can treat mosquito habitats using ground and aerial spray equipment. The districts use aircraft in rural locations and ground equipment for more precision spraying in urbanized areas. The districts continue to be concerned with neglected swimming pools. The districts also provide mosquito fish, free of charge, to put in ornamental ponds and other backyard locations.
Reporting and testing of dead birds is an important step in preventing West Nile Virus. A confirmed case of the virus in dead birds or mosquito samples helps to identify areas that need treatment to reduce mosquito activity. To report a dead bird, call the California State hotline at 1-877-WNV-BIRD or report it online at www.westnile.ca.gov. Birds of particular interest are crows, ravens, magpies, jays and raptors (hawk or eagle).
To report mosquito-breeding problem areas, Stanislaus County residents should contact one of the two mosquito abatement districts that serve the county. For Stanislaus County addresses north of the Tuolumne River, residents should call the Eastside Mosquito Abatement District at 522-4098 (www.eastsidemosquito.com) and all others should contact the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District at 634-1234 (turlockmosquito.org).