Amid the period between June and September, in which most victims of West Nile virus become infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the City of Long Beach recently reported that the California Department of Public Health has found the virus in two crows near El Dorado Park.
The State was able to find the virus with the help of its dead-bird hotline.
“They’ll report the bird to the hotline– in this case it was Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control [District]–, they come out and pick up the bird, package it up, send it up to the State, and then the State goes ahead and tests the bird,” said Nelson Kerr, Environmental Health Bureau manager for Long Beach.
The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD) serves the area where the infected crows were found, while the Long Beach Health Department Vector Control Program aids the western part of the city, the press release stated.
The GLACVCD reported last week that five dead birds, including the two in Long Beach, and six mosquitoes recently tested were infected with West Nile virus. The two birds in Long Beach were the “the first sign of the virus that we’ve had here this year,” Kerr said.
West Nile virus is typically spread by infected mosquitoes, which catch the viruswhen they bite infected birds, according to the CDC. The CDC also notes that there are usually minor symptoms associated with the virus, with a fraction of a percent dying from the disease.
Mosquitoes like to breed in standing water, and parks that are more wild in terms of shrubbery, like El Dorado Park, attract more of them, said Hazel Wallace, former director of the biomedical laboratory at the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services and a member representing Signal Hill on the board of GLACVCD, which serves Signal Hill. Because Signal Hill has lots of standing water, it’s attractive to mosquitoes.
“The oil companies have to put water underground to push some of the oil up… so then there’s always kind of oily standing water around, and they are the perfect mode of carrying mosquitoes,” Wallace said. “Mosquitoes love dirty water to breed in.”
Officials try to get rid of the mosquitoes, which are most active during dusk and the evening, by killing the larvae using non-toxic chemicals derived from flowers, Wallace added. Every week Long Beach officials set 14 to 22 mosquito traps, Kerr said.
Those most vulnerable to West Nile virus are people older than 60 years of age and those who have particular medical illnesses, according to the CDC. People who are out at night much of the time are also vulnerable, Wallace said.
The City of Long Beach is urging residents to take precautions by using the five Ds: DEET (repellent); Dress (in pants and long-sleeve shirts); Drain (standing water); Doors (with adequate screens); and the Dead-bird program, Kerr said. Kerr added that the public and the city should work together to control the mosquito population.
“The Health Department is out there every day looking at breeding sources and controlling those sources, and then if we can get folks to help out in maintaining their property, and in not being a source of breeding, that helps everybody,” Kerr said.
To report dead birds or squirrels, call 1-877-WNV-BIRD or visit westnile.ca.govwestnile.ca.gov .