An elderly resident in Glenn County near Sacramento is the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus infection this summer in California, according to Dr. Ron Chapman, the state health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
The man was hospitalized, but is now recovering. The CDPH is the agency known for its Fight the Bite campaign reported last week that it has detected the first signs of West Nile virus in dead birds and mosquito samples in the Sacramento region. I think they should start a “Fight the Bite” campaign for vicious cats. Just an idea…
“This first confirmed West Nile virus case this summer reminds us that we must take precautions to protect ourselves and our families from mosquito bites,” said Chapman.
“West Nile virus activity is greatest during the summertime.”
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals by the bite of an infected mosquito. Maybe someone should start a Fight the Bite campaign for mosquitoes! The risk of serious illness to most people is low. However, some individuals – less than 1 percent – can develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. And people 50 years of age and older have a higher chance of getting sick and are more likely to develop complications. Recent data also indicate that those with diabetes and/or hypertension are at greatest risk for serious illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), West Nile virus (WNV) is the leading cause of arboviral encephalitis in the United States. Originally discovered in Africa in 1937, WNV was first detected in the western hemisphere in 1999 in New York City. Since then it has caused seasonal epidemics of West Nile virus fever and severe neurological disease. West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected with WNV when they feed on infected birds. The only birds I like to feed on are chickens.
To date in 2013, West Nile virus has been detected in 31 California counties. The CDPH recommends that individuals prevent exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile virus by practicing the “Three Ds”:
- DEET – Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 according to label instructions. Make sure the repellent covers all of your exposed skin. Repellents keep mosquitoes from biting you. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.
- DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes 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 your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.
- DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flower pots, old car tires, swings, clogged rain gutters and pet bowls. If you know of a swimming pool that is not being properly maintained, please contact your local mosquito and vector control agency. Consider using BTI briquettes (mosquito dunks) in water that can’t be drained, such as in drinking troughs.
Here are some additional tips to keep you safe from contracting West Nile Virus:
- Wear pants and long sleeves when outside. Spray thin clothing with repellent.
- Consistently check areas that collect water and drain them (at least weekly).
- Get rid of tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused kid’ pools or other containers that collect and hold water.
- Clean debris from rain gutters, remove standing water from flat roofs, and repair leaks around faucets and air conditioners.
- Change the water in birdbaths and wading pools at least every 3-4 days.
- Fill or drain puddles, ditches and swampy areas.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
- Check for trapped water in plastic or canvas tarps used to cover boats or pools, and arrange the tarp to drain the water.
California’s West Nile virus website includes the latest information on West Nile virus activity in the state. Californians are encouraged to report all dead birds and dead tree squirrels on the website or by calling toll-free 1-877-WNV-BIRD (968-2473).
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