West Nile confirmed in Colusa County
Two dead birds found in the Colusa area have tested positive for West Nile virus, pest control officials learned this week.
The confirmations Tuesday of the virus by a state lab in one yellow-billed magpie and one starling, a mid-sized non-native bird, are the first evidence of West Nile virus transmission this season, according Colusa Mosquito Abatement District Manager Dave Whitesell.
“We knew it was here,” Whitesell said today. “This is just confirmation.”
Dead birds have been used as a surveillance mechanism to track West Nile virus activity in the area since 2005.
Both birds were found within the Colusa Abatement District spraying area, although it is unknown if the birds contracted the disease within the district.
The district currently sprays pesticides only over an eighth of the county.
“It’s possible the birds flew in from outside the district, got sick and died here,” Whitesell said.
West Nile virus, which is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito, affects mostly Corvids – including jays, crows and magpies. The virus can cause illness and death in horses and humans.
“The risk of serious illness to most people is low,” Whitesell said. “However, some individuals – about 1 percent – will develop serious neurological illness (encephalitis or meningitis).”
People with West Nile fever may experience mild to severe flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fever, body ache and mild paralysis, Whitesell said. An elderly woman living just north of the district died from West Nile virus in 2007 and several other Colusa County residents were sickened since the virus was first detected in California.
To date, West Nile virus has been detected in 52 dead birds, 107 mosquito samples, six sentinel chickens and one squirre in 19 California counties.
Four cases of West Nile virus in humans have been reported in California, two of which were classified as the neuroinvasive form of the disease.
In response to the new bird reports, the Colusa Mosquito Abatement District will continue with its control efforts, Whitesell said, spraying in the city with ground rigs, and outlying wetlands and agriculture areas by airplane.
Meanwhile, Whitesell urges residents to take precautions such as using insect repellent and staying indoors at dusk and dawn when WNV carrying mosquitoes are the most active. He also encourages residents to drain all sources of standing water around their homes.
The district asks that dead birds be reported to the West Nile virus Hotline. The 95932 zip code has been closed to dead bird pickup. The hotline number is 877-WNV-BIRD (877-968-2473) or online at www.westnile.ca.gov.
“This reporting is important to track possible clusters of dead birds indicating WNV hot spots,” Whitesell said.