El Dorado County health officials report that a bird found in the El Dorado Hills area has tested positive for West Nile virus, the first in the county for 2015.
The bird, a western scrub jay, was found June 16, according to a county news release. So far this year, West Nile virus activity has been reported in 26 California counties, including Sacramento and Placer counties. No human cases of the virus have been reported in the state so far this year.
El Dorado County environmental health officials say it is unusual to see a bird test positive for the virus this early in the season.
“We don’t typically get our first report of a West Nile positive bird in El Dorado County until later in the summer,” Fred Sanford, supervising environmental health specialist with the county, said in a written statement. “Confirmation of our first West Nile virus positive bird means the virus is circulating between birds and mosquitoes, and there is heightened risk of infection in humans.”
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Seven West Nile virus positive birds were identified in El Dorado County last year. No human cases were reported.
The virus can be transmitted to people when they are bitten by infected mosquitoes, which feed on infected birds. The illness is not spread from person to person.
Although most people infected with the virus show no symptoms, some may have high fever, severe headache, fatigue or a stiff neck that can last several days or weeks. The most serious cases can lead to encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, which can be fatal.
To prevent West Nile virus, health officials recommend that residents:
▪ Drain standing water around property and keep water in swimming pools, ponds and water troughs circulating or treated with “Mosquito Dunks” or mosquito fish.
▪ Apply insect repellent that contains DEET or another approved substance on exposed skin when outdoors.
▪ Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors among mosquitoes, which are most active at dawn and dusk.
▪ Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens that are in good condition.
▪ Report dead birds and tree squirrels to the state West Nile virus hotline at 877-968-2473, or online at www.westnile.ca.gov. Wear gloves and place the dead bird or squirrel in a double plastic bag, if you dispose of it yourself.
Mosquito problems and neglected swimming pools in El Dorado County should be reported to the county’s Environmental Management Division at 530-621-5300 on the west slope, or 530-573-3450 in South Lake Tahoe.