Health & Medicine

Mosquitoes test positive for deadly West Nile virus near Florin area in Sacramento County

West Nile survivor helps other survivors take on illness

Turlock, Calif. real estate broker Danny Stonebarger tries to inspire other West Nile patients to work on recovery, no matter how depressed or helpless they feel. Stonebarger was in a coma for 30 days after contracting the virus in 2011.
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Turlock, Calif. real estate broker Danny Stonebarger tries to inspire other West Nile patients to work on recovery, no matter how depressed or helpless they feel. Stonebarger was in a coma for 30 days after contracting the virus in 2011.

The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District reported Wednesday that, for the first time this year, a mosquito sample collected within the two-county district has tested positive for West Nile virus.

This particular sample was collected near the Florin area of south Sacramento County, officials said, and the news did not come as a surprise to them because a dead bird tested positive for the disease last week near Elverta in north Sacramento County.

“As we expected, after finding the first positive bird ... we are finding virus in the mosquito populations, “ said Gary Goodman, the district manager. “With the very warm weather expected over the next few days, we expect (West Nile virus) activity to quickly ramp up.”

Luz Robles, the district’s public information officer, said cool weather this year likely has helped to keep mosquito activity low. By this time in 2018, there was more activity because temperatures were high.

“At this same time last year,” Robles said, “we had seen a lot of West Nile virus activity in widespread areas throughout the city of Sacramento and Sacramento County, and we were getting ready to do some urban aerial spraying over the Pocket (neighborhood) and Elk Grove because most activity was concentrated in that area. 2018 was a much more intense season if you compare that with this year. It’s been an odd year.”

Elsewhere in the state, though, vector districts have been reporting more West Nile activity among mosquitoes in 2019 than they did in this same period last year. This year’s numbers – 471 positive samples – are even higher than the average 376 positive samples detected in the comparable five-year period.

They are finding fewer samples in dead birds, however. So far, West Nile has been found in 18 birds, significantly lower than the 217 positive bird samples found on average over the same period of the last five years.

Last year at this time, only 50 bird samples had tested positive. Still, the virus led to the death of 11 of the 211 state residents with confirmed cases of it. Want to report a dead bird? You can call the California Department of Public Health at 877-968-2473.

District leaders urged Sacramento-area residents to take precautions. Officials are worried about the region’s impending heat wave because mosquitoes complete their life cycles faster in warm temperatures. In the peak of summer, it takes only four to seven days for larvae to become adult mosquitoes.

To cut down on the number of mosquitoes, the district urges residents to drain any stagnant water near their homes and report any unattended swimming pools. The district will also send out technicians to help find the source of unusually high mosquito activity and help with abatement.

“As more people enjoy outdoor activities during the warm summer evenings, it’s important to remember that the best protection against mosquito bites is an effective insect repellent” Goodman said.

Experts also suggest wearing clothes that cover the arms and legs, especially at dusk or when near stagnant water. At home, look for holes in screens or windows that allow pests to get indoors.

West Nile can cause overwhelming fatigue, terrible muscle aches and headaches, according to doctors, and those who survive severe cases of the illness report ongoing problems with fatigue and neurological problems. Those who have the toughest time fending off the illness are people aged 65 or older, physicians say.

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