Department of Health & Human Services

Posted on: July 25, 2014

Humboldt County bird tests positive for West Nile virus

West Nile virus (WNV) has been confirmed in a raven submitted for testing from Humboldt County. This is the first WNV-positive bird reported in Humboldt County this year. A positive bird was confirmed in July 2013.

A total of 872 birds across the state have tested positive for West Nile virus so far this year, according to the California Department of Public Health. Fifteen people in California have been confirmed with WNV to date. There have been no reports of illness in humans in Humboldt County.

“We have had no human cases of West Nile virus originate in Humboldt County,” said Kevin Metcalfe, Consumer Protection Program supervisor with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Environmental Health. “Cases occur in areas of California with warm average daily temperatures for several consecutive days. Our local climate does not support disease transmission.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people get infected with WNV after getting bitten by an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can spread the virus to other animals and humans.

Most people who become infected with WNV do not develop any symptoms. According to the CDC, about one in five people will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Less than 1 percent of those infected will develop a serious neurologic illness.

Even though the prevalence of WNV is low in Humboldt County, local residents are still advised to follow safety measures, especially when traveling to areas where WNV is more common.

One of the best ways to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites, according to the CDC. Avoid mosquito-infested areas especially at dawn and dusk when the insects are most active. People who are going to be outside during the early morning or early evening hours are advised to wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, shoes and socks.

The CDC also recommends using EPA-registered insect repellants such as DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus for long-lasting protection against mosquito bites. Always use repellents as directed by the manufacturer.

People are also encouraged to mosquito-proof their homes. The CDC suggests people install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside. Also, help reduce the number of mosquitoes by emptying standing water from flower pots, gutters, buckets, pet water dishes, discarded tires and bird baths.

“Standing water is a breeding source for mosquitoes,” Metcalfe said. “People should limit the number of places for mosquitoes to lay their eggs by getting rid of items that hold water.”

Residents are encouraged to contact the Division of Environmental Health at 707-445-6215 or toll-free at 1-800-963-9241 when high concentrations of mosquitoes or manmade/artificial breeding sources are encountered in Humboldt County.

To report dead birds or dead tree squirrels, call the California West Nile Virus Surveillance Program hotline at 1-877-968-2473. Dead bird or tree squirrel reports are important because they can be the first indication of WNV in an area, according to the CDPH. For more information, visit http://westnile.ca.gov.

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