West Nile virus officially has arrived in Sacramento County this year, experts have announced.
David Brown, manager of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control District, said a dead bird found in Sacramento County has tested positive for the virus.
The bird case marks the first confirmation of the presence of the disease in any species within the county in 2005.
Mosquitoes become infected with West Nile virus when they feed on infected birds. Humans and other animals, including horses, are infected through the bite of infected mosquitoes.
Three human cases of the disease were reported in Sacramento County in 2004. Symptoms of West Nile virus are fever, headache, muscle aches, lethargy and muscle weakness.
Experts have predicted the region will be hard hit by the illness this year based on the high number of cases in Southern California last year and on the excessive rainfall this winter. Standing water leads to mosquito breeding in warmer weather.
"We want to urge residents to start protecting themselves from mosquitoes and make sure they are not creating mosquitoes in their own back yard," Brown said in a prepared statement.
To reduce the risk of contracting the disease, residents should drain all sources of standing water, avoid spending time outside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active, wear insect repellant containing DEET and keep doors and windows well-screened.
In 2004, California recorded 829 human cases of the virus. There were 27 deaths, all in Southern California, according to the state's West Nile Web site, www.westnile.ca.gov.
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