SACRAMENTO – A senior citizen in Sacramento County is the first confirmed death in California in 2016 due to West Nile virus (WNV), according to an announcement Friday by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
“West Nile virus can cause a deadly infection in humans, and the elderly are particularly susceptible, as this unfortunate fatality illustrates,” stated CDPH Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.
“West Nile virus activity in the state is increasing, so I urge Californians to take every possible precaution to protect themselves against mosquito bites,” Smith added.
CDPH has reported 10 human cases of WNV from eight California counties this year. In addition, the number of WNV positive dead birds and mosquito samples exceeds the numbers at this same time last year and are above the state’s most recent five-year average, according to the CDPH.
West Nile Virus in the Antelope Valley
So far this year, the Antelope Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District (AVMVCD) has confirmed West Nile Virus activity in one dead bird in Palmdale and nine sentinel chickens from four coops located in the Antelope Valley.
The chicken coops are located near 45th Street West and Avenue L; 50th Street West and Avenue N; 15th Street West and Avenue I; and 40th Street East and Avenue K. Technicians take blood samples from 60 chickens every two weeks. These chickens are placed in 10 coops throughout the district at the beginning of each year and serve as sentinels to monitor West Nile Virus and other mosquito borne disease activity.
The dead bird was picked up in Palmdale near 60th Street East and Avenue R on July 11. Certain bird species such as crows and ravens are susceptible to WNV and will die within a few days of being infected. Since birds can fly long distances, it is unknown where they have been infected. Dead bird reports can show patterns of unusually high numbers of birds dying in an area, according to the AVMVCD, and district staff members follow up with mosquito traps and thorough inspections.
“Because of the increased virus activity, we are checking all properties with pools that look even slightly suspicious on Google Earth images,” stated District Manager Cei Kratz. “If we have reports of a high number of mosquitoes in an area, we will check every pool in that neighborhood, to make sure we’re not missing a mosquito breeding source.”
West Nile virus is influenced by many factors, including climate, the number and types of birds and mosquitoes in an area, and the level of WNV immunity in birds. West Nile is transmitted to humans and animals by the bite of an infected mosquito.
The risk of serious illness to most people is low. However, some individuals – less than 1 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.
District officials are urging residents to follow these tips to avoid getting mosquito bites and West Nile Virus infection:
- Check your property for any standing water from sprinklers or thunder showers, and dump or drain all standing water. Keep swimming pools maintained or completely dry.
- Dress in light-colored long-sleeved clothes during mosquito activity. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn.
- Defend against mosquitoes by use repellents (i.e., DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535).
- Keep screen doors and windows in good repair and close them.
- Turn on fans to keep mosquitoes away.
- Don’t use bug zappers near your patio – they attract more mosquitoes than they kill.
To stay up-to-date on West Nile Virus activity and mosquito-related information in the Antelope Valley, visit www.avmosquito.org or contact the Antelope Valley Mosquito & Vector Control District at 661-942-2917.
Zika Virus: An Antelope Valley update
Zika virus is another mosquito-borne virus that is transmitted from one person to another — mainly by the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) or the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). These mosquito species have been found in other areas of Los Angeles County, but there is no evidence of them in the Antelope Valley at this time, local health officials said.
Most people infected with Zika virus will not have any symptoms, or just mild ones. The most serious danger is to pregnant women, since it can cause certain birth defects (microcephaly) in their unborn child. The best way to avoid Zika virus infection is to remove standing water and use mosquito repellents that are recommended by EPA.
Local residents are asked to report any daytime mosquito activity to the AVMVCD, so they can inspect the area for evidence of the invasive Aedes species. These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters and like to be in close proximity to people. Their eggs are laid in containers and can dry up for a very long time, ready to hatch whenever water is filled into the container, according to local health officials.
For detailed information about Zika virus, visit www.cdc.gov/zika.
[Information via news release from the California Department of Public Health and the Antelope Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District.]