For the first time this year authorities have found two dead birds in Stanislaus County that have tested positive for the West Nile virus.
The two dead birds were found by the East Side Mosquito Abatement District in Modesto, the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency reported Monday. This is the first detection of the virus in Stanislaus County this year. Last year there were 26 people sickened by the virus in Stanislaus County, according to the California Department of Public Health.
As of June 21, the CDPH was reporting West Nile Virus had been found in 19 counties. It has been detected in 37 dead birds and 70 mosquito samples. One fatality has been reported in Sacramento County. Tests of the deceased man are potentially consistent with West Nile neuroinvasive disease, but his underlying illness has made it difficult to determine if his acute illness was due to the West Nile virus. His is the only reported case in humans so far this year in California.
Five dead birds have tested positive for the virus in neighboring Merced County. San Joaquin County has reported three dead birds with the virus.
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.
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.
Reporting and testing of dead birds is an important step in preventing West Nile virus, according to health officials. 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 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).
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 to the State are crows, ravens, magpies, jays and raptors.
People can help protect themselves from mosquito bites and the West Nile virus by:
• Eliminate sources of standing water. During warm weather, mosquitoes can breed within four days.
• Change the water in pet dishes and regularly replace water in birdbaths.
• Drill holes in tire swings so water can drain.
• 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 according to label instructions when outdoors.
• In addition to DEET-based products, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends insect repellants containing oil of lemon eucalyptus and Picaridin.