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Sacramento’s West Nile virus arrives early in mosquitoes, dead birds

Lab Technician Paula Matney suits up before she enters a chicken coop at the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District In Elk Grove on Wednesday, July 29, 2015 in Elk Grove, Calif. Sacramento-Yolo mosquito officials also keep coops of chickens that are regularly tested for West Nile virus. Lab technicians handle the birds, which are pricked for blood samples to see if they’ve developed West Nile antibodies. Similar coops and chicken testing are managed statewide.
Lab Technician Paula Matney suits up before she enters a chicken coop at the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District In Elk Grove on Wednesday, July 29, 2015 in Elk Grove, Calif. Sacramento-Yolo mosquito officials also keep coops of chickens that are regularly tested for West Nile virus. Lab technicians handle the birds, which are pricked for blood samples to see if they’ve developed West Nile antibodies. Similar coops and chicken testing are managed statewide. rpench@sacbee.com

West Nile virus is showing up earlier and faster this summer in Sacramento, with the count of infected mosquitoes and dead birds exceeding that recorded in mid-June last year.

That’s according to the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control District, which announced Wednesday that 47 dead birds and 30 mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile, mostly in Arden Arcade, North Highlands and other neighborhoods north of the American River.

The recent combination of spring rain followed by 100-degree days helped create an ideal breeding ground. “It set the season to get off with a bang,” said Luz Maria Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the Sacramento-Yolo mosquito district. “Heat increases the life cycle of mosquitoes, so we weren’t surprised, after we had over-100 degree days, when we saw the increase in activity.”

Last year at this time, “we were barely finding our first mosquito sample,” she said. “We didn’t have nearly as much activity as we’re seeing now.”

Sacramento County has California’s second highest number of West Nile-infected dead birds, according to Wednesday’s tally on the state Department of Public Health’s website, WestNile.ca.org. Of the eight counties reporting a total of 118 infected dead birds, San Diego topped the list with 64. There have been no reports of West Nile-infected dead birds in El Dorado, Placer, Yolo or Yuba counties.

Dead birds are considered the first indicator of West Nile virus, prompting mosquito control officials to begin trapping the insect within a 1-mile radius. West Nile virus is commonly found in crows, bluejays and magpies, but residents should report any dead bird to mosquito officials, who can collect and test it for the virus. To report a dead bird, call the state’s West Nile hotline, 877-968-2473 or go to: WestNile.ca.gov

In the Sacramento region, mosquito-control ground crews have been manually spraying shrubbery and vegetation in affected areas, mostly parks and golf courses. Those include Del Paso Park, Jonas Larkspur Park, Swanston Park, Haggin Oaks Golf Complex and Del Paso Country Club.

“Right now, we’re increasing our surveillance and doing additional (mosquito) trapping,” said Rodriguez. “We also started our ground fogging with area parks and neighborhoods to try and suppress the overall population of mosquitoes and knock them out.”

If the district needs to resort to aerial spraying, it will post daily notifications on its website. Residents can sign up to receive emailed notices by ZIP code at FighttheBite.net.

Most people infected with West Nile virus will experience no symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, about 20 percent of those infected will develop a fever along with other symptoms, such as headache or body pain; less than 1 percent will develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurological illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis.

In the last 16 years, the CDC said, there have been 1,765 reported deaths from West Nile virus disease nationwide.

To avoid getting bitten, residents should wear mosquito repellant when outdoors, particularly at dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active and biting. The CDC recommends mosquito repellants that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus products.

Rodriquez said an accelerated mosquito breeding cycle could erupt again this coming week, with Thursday’s expected rains and weekend heat. Homeowners and agricultural landowners should be vigilant about checking their yards and outdoor spaces for stagnant water, including flower pots, children’s inflatable pools and pet dishes.

Claudia Buck: 916-321-1968, @Claudia_Buck

West Nile Virus at a Glance

Where: West Nile, a mosquito-borne disease that originated in Africa, has been detected in every state except Hawaii and Alaska. There have been annual U.S. summer outbreaks since 1999.

How it spreads: Humans can get West Nile from an infected mosquito’s bite. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by biting or feeding on infected birds. There is no vaccine to prevent West Nile virus.

Symptoms: People typically get sick within two to 14 days after being bitten. In 80 to 90 percent of cases, there are no symptoms. About one in five infected individuals develop a fever or other flu-like symptoms. In rare cases – fewer than 1 percent – people can develop a serious illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis. Since 1999, there have been more than 1,700 U.S. deaths from West Nile disease.

Prevention: Wear mosquito repellant when outdoors, especially at dawn or dusk. Check your yard at least once a week for standing water, such as in flower pots, pet dishes and kiddie pools.

More info: WestNile.ca.gov or www.FIGHTtheBITE.net

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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