An alert has been issued in Citrus Heights in response to what an official called a "significant outbreak" of West Nile virus found in mosquitoes.
The alert was announced at Thursday night's City Council meeting by David Brown, manager of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, who said evidence indicates the disease has shown up "specifically in Citrus Heights."
With the alert, district officials are asking residents to make a greater effort to eliminate places for mosquitoes to breed and to take precautions against being bitten by the insects.
The development occurred amid the district's intensified efforts to educate Galt and Citrus Heights residents about how to protect themselves from the virus, which is mostly a disease of birds that is spread by mosquitoes.
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A few days ago, a crew from the California Conservation Corps began going door-to-door in both cities, delivering pamphlets explaining how residents can "fight the bite."
Although both cities have a significant number of infected mosquitoes, the crisis is greater in Citrus Heights. Brown said the number of infected mosquitoes is "nearing epidemic proportions."
"We saw a significant die-off of crows, magpies and ... jays" in Citrus Heights, he told the City Council.
Crews have been working to eradicate mosquitoes in the city's creeks and drainage ditches and place mosquitofish in local streams and ponds. The fish also are free to any homeowner requesting them.
Brown advised residents to eliminate sources of standing water. Waterfalls and other features, including the fountains around the Citrus Heights city offices, should be run because moving water inhibits mosquito breeding, he said.
On Friday, Mayor Bret Daniels described the alert as "a serious issue, no doubt about it."
But he said Brown's comments to the council had more of "an informational" quality than that of a "high alert."
"I think Mr. Brown came to let us know that there's a problem," Daniels said, insisting that the mosquito problem is no worse in Citrus Heights than it is "in any other part of the county or California."
Brown's alert, Daniels added, simply means that people must "take precautions and get some information as to what they can do to control this as much as possible."
Councilwoman Jayna Karpinski-Costa said she doesn't recall Brown having announced any kind of alert.
"I didn't hear him say anything like that," she said. "If he did, I would have asked him what an alert was.
"Maybe I was asleep when he said it," Karpinski-Costa continued, "but if there was an alert, he (Brown) would have been serious instead of smiling."
Writing about an alert in Citrus Heights would have lasting repercussions, she said, because it would be erroneous.
Jennifer Benito, spokeswoman for the mosquito control district, confirmed Friday night that Brown had issued an alert for Citrus Heights.
At least 5,000 "Fight the Bite" pamphlets have been distributed in and around Galt and Citrus Heights since Monday, Brown said in a phone interview Friday.
They were delivered by a crew of 12 to 16 California Conservation Corps members after the CCC and the mosquito control district formed a partnership.
"We're targeting areas where we see a significant increase in West Nile activity," Brown said. "This is an effective means of getting information out, door to door, as soon as possible."
The pamphlet distribution, costing about $30,000 a month, will continue in selected areas for the next couple of months.
The CCC is pleased to be helping the district, said spokeswoman Susanne Levitsky. "We're basically the labor force for the district," she said, noting that corps members normally do other chores ranging from fighting fires to helping with flood control.
At least one Californian, an elderly man from Kings County, has died this year as a result of West Nile virus. Several Sacramento County residents have been infected, Brown said.
For more details about how to fight the West Nile virus, visit the mosquito control district's Web site at www.fightthebite.net
About the writer:
- The Bee's Edgar Sanchez can be reached at (916) 321-1132 or email@example.com. Bee staff writer David Richie contributed to this report.