West Nile virus detected in two birds
Two dead birds found in the Colusa area have tested positive for West Nile virus, Colusa Mosquito Abatement District officials learned this week.
The virus' confirmation by a state lab in two dead western scrub jays is the first evidence of WNV transmission this season, said CMAD Manager Dave Whitesell. Dead birds have been used as a surveillance mechanism to track West Nile virus activity in the area since 2005.
"West Nile is here to stay," Whitesell said. "It means people have to take precautions."
West Nile virus, which is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito, affects mostly Corvids — including jays, crows and magpies. The virus can also cause illness and death in horses and humans.
"Most people who are bitten by a mosquito with WNV will not get sick," Whitesell said. "However, up to 20 percent of the population infected will get West Nile fever."
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 others have been sickened since the virus was first detected in California. The state reported 445 human West Nile cases last year, 15 of which resulted in death.
"The elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to illness and death caused by the virus," Whitesell said.
As of Thursday, West Nile virus had been detected in 31 California counties — up from 24 by this same time last year — according to information posted to the state's West Nile virus Web site. Neighboring Lake County has confirmed WNV in one dead bird and Sutter County has confirmed WNV in tested mosquitoes. So far, no human cases of the virus have been reported in the state this year.
In response to the new bird reports, CMAD will continue with its control efforts, Whitesell said. The City of Colusa will be sprayed every Monday and Thursday, weather permitting. Rural dwellings within the boundaries of the district will also be controlled on these evenings. Agricultural areas within the district's boundaries will be controlled the remainder of the week.
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.
"Backyard breeding grounds are the hardest for us to control," Whitesell said.
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.
REMEMBER THE D’S
Defend: Use repellent with an effective active ingredient such as DEET, Picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Make sure all doors and window screens are tight and in good repair to prevent mosquitoes from entering the home.
Drain: Remove all sources of standing water that support mosquito-breeding habitats.
Dress: Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors and mosquitoes are present.
Details: Questions about mosquito sources or control program can be directed to Colusa Mosquito Abatement District at 458-4966. Non-emergency medical questions about WNV should be directed to Colusa County Public Health at 458-0380.
Contact Susan Meeker at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.