As the weather warms up, the mosquito population increases. Starting April 15, the West Nile Virus (WNV) Surveillance Program hotline will be up and running and people can call in to report dead birds and tree squirrels.
Last year, California had a record-breaking number of WNV cases. Since the beginning of this year, WNV has been confirmed in five California counties. There has been no WNV activity confirmed in Humboldt County yet this year, which is not uncommon for the cooler, coastal climate, said Kevin Metcalfe, Consumer Protection Program supervisor for the Department of Health & Human Services, Environmental Health Division (DEH).
“It takes several weeks of warm temperatures for the virus to intensify and several cycles of disease transmission for the virus to cause illness,” Metcalfe said. “The local climate makes it difficult for the disease to spread. This allows us to control mosquitoes with commonsense methods that avoid the use of pesticides.”
Last year Humboldt County confirmed WNV in two birds. There has never been a confirmed human case in the county.
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 800-963-9241 when high concentrations of mosquitoes or man-made/artificial breeding sources are encountered in Humboldt County.
Starting April 15, WNV dead birds and tree squirrels can be reported by calling 1-877-968-2473. These 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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