The first confirmed cases of West Nile Virus have been found in birds in Merced and Stanislaus counties. A dead Northern Mockingbird was found in north Merced County on June 2 and tested positive for West Nile Virus. Two American Crows found on the west side of Ceres also tested positive for the virus.
“There is West Nile Virus in the area,” said Jerry Davis, manager of the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District.
The three confirmed cases were the first indications found that West Nile Virus is circulating in Stanislaus and Merced counties this year. West Nile Virus can cause brain swelling, permanent neurological damage, and death. West Nile Virus is transferred to humans, birds, and some other mammals through the bite of infected mosquitoes.
The Merced Mosquito Abatement District set traps for adult mosquitoes and tested the insects for West Nile Virus. So far, no infected mosquitoes have been found in Merced County.
“Birds travel, so there is no indication that the mockingbird caught West Nile Virus in the same location where it died,” said Bruce Bondi, assistant manager of the Merced Mosquito Abatement District, “but we are taking a more active role in looking for West Nile infected mosquitoes now.”
The Merced Mosquito Abatement District continues to trap and test mosquitoes for West Nile Virus. They are also actively looking for standing water, a potential breeding ground for Culex mosquitoes, the type of mosquitoes that carry West Nile.
“This is a busy year for Culex sources. There has been a lot of rain and not enough hot, dry weather to dry up that standing water,” Bondi said.
Although many Culex mosquitoes have been trapped in Merced County, none of them have tested positive for West Nile Virus so far. Bondi said that there have been no reported human cases of West Nile Virus in Merced County, or the state of California, so far this year. There were four human cases of West Nile Virus in Merced County last year.
The Turlock Mosquito Abatement District trapped and tested mosquitoes in the Newman area, which is considered the west side of the district. All of those traps came back negative for West Nile Virus. Davis said that TMAD set mosquito traps in the Turlock area in response to the crows found in Ceres. Those traps were sent out for testing on Tuesday, and Davis expects the results in the next three days. There have been no reported cases of West Nile Virus in humans in Stanislaus County this year. Last year there were 13 human cases of West Nile in the county, and five of those cases were found in Turlock residents.
“There were no human cases this time last year either, from what I recall. But West Nile season has started, and it will continue until at least September,” Davis said.
Davis said that horses are also susceptible to West Nile Virus, but there have been no confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in horses so far this year. However, horses are outside during peak mosquito hours and they cannot apply bug spray, so horse owners can get their animals vaccinated against West Nile Virus.
“They need to get a booster for the horse every year. Some people think it's a onetime shot, but they need to get the yearly booster now if they haven't already,” Davis said.
Cats and dogs can catch West Nile, but Davis said there are no serious symptoms for pets. Infected pets cannot spread the virus to humans or other animals, so vaccinations are not necessary for cats or dogs.
People who are outside around sun down are most vulnerable to bites from West Nile infected mosquitoes. Bondi said that anyone outside for an hour and a half after dark should wear mosquito repellent and cover up with long clothing.
Merced County residents are urged to report dead birds, standing water (including swimming pools), and areas with a high number of mosquitoes to the Merced Mosquito Abatement District at 722-1527.
The Turlock Mosquito Abatement District can be reached at 634-1234. Residents can report neglected pools and ornamental ponds, dead birds, and mosquito problems. They can also request free mosquito fish for pools and ponds.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.