Following the first reported death from the West Nile virus in California this year, local mosquito control officials are telling people what they can to prevent contracting the deadly mosquito-borne virus.
That includes eliminating all sources of standing water by emptying flower pots, old car tires, buckets, and other containers so the virus-carrying mosquito wouldn’t have anywhere to breed.
The California Department of Public Health (CPDH) said the death occurred in San Luis Obispo County on Friday, July 9.
“West Nile virus activity in the state is increasing, so I urge Californians to take every possible precaution to protect against mosquito bites,” said state Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health.
Levy Sun, communications director of the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District (SGVMVCD), urged residents to tip out stagnant water regularly, toss unused containers that could become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and use insect repellents with Picaridin, DEET, and lemon eucalyptus oil to protect against mosquito bites.
“It’s primarily a bird disease. So, it’s supposed to only really be a virus spreading between mosquitoes and birds and then back to mosquitoes again,” Sun said. “But, the way we’ve urbanized in the city has allowed people to be part of the transmission cycle.”
West Nile virus, or WNV, is transmitted to humans and animals by the bite of an infected mosquito. The CDPH said WNV has been detected in 45 dead birds from six counties and in 177 mosquito samples from 13 counties.
“Hot temperatures this month are contributing to increasing numbers of mosquitoes and the increased risk of virus transmission to humans,” a CDPH statement said. “So far this season, activity is within expected levels. The risk of disease due to WNV usually increases at this time of year and is highest throughout the summer and early fall.”
The CDPH said the risk of serious illness among most individuals is low, but some – less than one percent – can develop serious neurologic illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis. People 50 years of age and older, and individuals with diabetes or hypertension, have a higher chance of getting sick and are more likely to develop complications from WNV infection.
To protect against WNV, the CDPH recommends that individuals practice the three Ds:
• DEET, or applying insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 according to label instructions;
• Dawn and Dusk, which means wearing proper clothing and insect repellents especially in the early morning and evening to keep the mosquitoes from biting you; and
• Drain, which means eliminating all stagnant water sources so mosquitoes couldn’t breed near your property.
Also, if you know of a swimming pool that is not being properly maintained, contact the SGVMVCD immediately by calling (626) 814-9466. Visit www.sgvmosquito.org for more information.
California’s WNV website, www.westnile.ca.gov, includes the latest information on WNV activity in the state. Californians are encouraged to report dead birds on the website or by calling (877) WNV-BIRD (968-2473) toll-free.