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West Nile Virus on the Rise

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July 29, 2008

Three more chickens from one of County Vector Control’s sentinel flocks located in the Sorrento Valley area have tested positive for West Nile virus. Mosquitoes collected just north of Torrey Pines State Reserve also tested positive.

Additionally, another record-breaking 33 dead birds including 24 American crows, three red-shouldered hawks, three Western scrub jays, two Cooper’s hawks, and one raven tested positive for the virus. They were found in Carlsbad, Carmel Valley, Clairemont, Del Mar, Del Mar Heights, El Cajon, Encinitas, Lakeside, La Mesa, Miramar, Mira Mesa, Oceanside, Ramona, Rancho Penasquitos, University City and Vista.

This brings the year’s totals to 154 dead birds, eight sentinel chickens, five mosquito pools, one horse and one infected human.

“Vector Control staff is working overtime to protect and educate the public, but residents need to take personal responsibility, use repellent and avoid going outdoors when mosquitoes are biting,” said Gary Erbeck, Director of the County Department of Environmental Health.

“Anybody can get the virus if they are bitten by an infected mosquito."

A 24-year-old San Diego man was recently hospitalized with encephalitis after developing symptoms consistent with WNV infection. The man is the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus, according to the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA).

Precautions include not sleeping outside, unprotected, while camping; wearing long sleeves and pants; and ensuring that windows and doors have tight fitting screens without holes or tears.

“We urge the public to take appropriate precautions to protect against contracting West Nile virus,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., San Diego County Public Health Officer. “Avoid outdoor activity at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are active, use insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535.”

Information regarding repellents can be found via the Centers for Disease Control. Unapproved repellents may not be effective.

Most people infected with WNV do not develop any symptoms or become seriously ill. Nearly one in five who do fall ill may suffer from headache, fever, nausea, fatigue, skin rash or swollen glands. The risk of complications increases for those over age 50, and those who have weakened immune systems. In 2007, 15 people tested positive for locally-acquired WNV.

The County’s West Nile virus Web site, has a mosquito prevention checklist.

For information on WNV, or to report mosquito breeding sites, please call County Vector Control at (888) 551-INFO (4636).