The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has announced the first confirmed illness in California due to West Nile virus (WNV). The illness occurred in Kings County.
“West Nile virus activity in the state is increasing, so I urge Californians to take every possible precaution to protect against mosquito bites,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.
This year to date, WNV activity has been detected in three dead birds, one each from San Mateo, Orange and San Diego counties. Heavy rains this winter in California have contributed to an increase in mosquito breeding sites, according to the CDPH. It is not known what impact the wet weather may have on the actual virus transmission risk in humans, however. So far this season, West Nile activity is within expected levels.
WNV is influenced by many factors, including climate, the number and types of birds and mosquitoes in an area and the level of West Nile immunity in birds. WNV 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.
CDPH recommends that individuals protect against mosquito bites and WNV by practicing the “Three Ds”:
DEET Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 according to label instructions. Repellents keep the mosquitoes from biting people. Insect repellents should not be used on children under 2 months of age.
Dawn and dusk Mosquitoes usually bite in the early morning and evening, so it is important to wear proper clothing and repellent if outside during these times. Make sure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
Drain Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on property by emptying flower pots, old car tires, buckets and other containers. Signal Hill and Long Beach residents may report a swimming pool that is not being properly maintained by contacting the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District at (562) 944-9656 or glacvcd.org.
California’s WNV website includes the latest information on WNV activity in the state. Californians are encouraged to report dead birds on the website or by calling toll-free 1-877-WNV-BIRD (968-2473).