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West Nile virus found in Colusa County birds
Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property that can support mosquito breeding.
Take precautions to protect yourself when mosquitoes are most active, especially at dawn and dusk.
When outdoors at dawn or dusk, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
Apply insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus according to label instructions.
Make sure that doors and windows have tight fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
Contact the local mosquito and vector control agency to report neglected swimming pools or if there is a significant mosquito problem where you live or work.
To report a dead bird, call 1-877-WNV-BIRD or log onto www.westnile.ca.gov and follow the link to report.
A fleet of seven pickups equipped with spraying equipment hit the streets most weeknights in and around Colusa.
The goal: Kill mosquitoes, and by doing so, limit exposure to such problems as the West Nile virus.
But even with their efforts, David Whitesell, manager of the Colusa Mosquito Abatement District, said people need to protect themselves.
An American crow and two young mallards recently tested positive for the disease inside the mosquito district, which accounts for only about 12.5 percent of the county.
"We know we have West Nile here, it is just a matter of finding the right bird," Whitesell said.
"But we seem to be keeping on top of the (mosquito) population, but it never fails that when they start draining the fields and flooding the duck clubs, that's when the population moves on us."
And it is from this point on that mosquitoes become even more active.
Still, there have been very few human cases reported in Colusa County in recent years, including none last year or so far this year, health officials said.
But Dr. Lou Anne Cummings, Colusa County health director, said a number of people may have the virus and never know it.
"The thing about West Nile is very few people get sick, and of those who do get sick, very few get really sick," Cummings said.
People with West Nile fever may experience mild to severe flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fever, body ache and mild paralysis, health officials report.
But the consequences can be dire.
In 2007, an elderly woman in the county died of the disease, and in 2008, a Colusa woman nearly died.
About 1 percent of those infected will develop encephalitis or meningitis.
Cummings said West Nile is not the only disease mosquitoes carry, so taking precautions to avoid the pests is strongly recommended. The West Nile virus can also be fatal to horses and other members of the equine family, though there is a vaccine available. There have been no reports in Colusa County for more than two years.
Whitesell and his crew, using sprayers they built at a savings of about $7,400 each, started their spraying efforts early this year.
However, with cuts in their budget — particularly for chemicals — the area that is sprayed is shrinking.
Whitesell said they still spray all of Colusa, and outlying residential areas within the district. But some agriculture and wetland areas are no longer sprayed.
He said the budget for chemicals this year is $110,000, up from $90,000 last year. That is due primarily to organic rice growers, who pay extra to have their fields sprayed by a more expensive chemical that meets their more specialized needs.
"But I can remember when it was $200,000," said Whitesell, who has been with the district for 27 years.
The material sprayed in town is Permethrin, the same chemical used to treat head lice, but at a far weaker solution.
The outlying areas, often sprayed by airplane, are hit with pyrethrins, Whitesell said.
In addition to a decrease in revenues coming into the district, costs in other areas have gone up, Whitesell said, noting particularly federal and state regulations such as water monitoring.