West Nile virus back in Nevada County | SierraSun.com

West Nile virus back in Nevada County

Sierra Sun file photoMosquitos spread the West Nile virus by feeding on infected birds and then biting other animals or humans.

The summer season has barely begun and already Nevada County health officials have reported the first case of West Nile virus found in a dead bird in Nevada County on Thursday.

“This is by no means a surprise, but just a reminder that we all need to be careful to protect ourselves from mosquito bites,” said Joseph Iser, director of Nevada County Public Health.

In 2007, there were no reported human cases of West Nile virus in Nevada or Placer counties, but there were 380 human cases throughout California, 21 of which were fatal, according to the California Department of Public Health.

However, Iser said despite a relatively dry winter, which helps to reduce virus activity, circumstances may be different this year in Truckee as standing water becomes a heightened problem.

“Swimming pools are becoming an issue,” Iser said. “Because of the downturn in the economy and rise in foreclosures, they are not being monitored properly. They need to be drained and treated regularly.”

In addition, lakes in the Tahoe-Truckee area offer ideal breeding conditions for mosquitos, and Iser said he recommends residents take proper precautions to protect themselves, particularly around dusk and dawn when mosquitoes that carry the virus are most active.

West Nile was first detected in the United States in 1999 and is spread after mosquitos feed on infected birds and subsequently bite other animals or humans.

Only one in 150 individuals infected with the disease will develop severe symptoms such as disorientation, coma, convulsions, vision loss, numbness, paralysis and brain damage, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Because California is experiencing increasing West Nile activity statewide, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has stepped up efforts to fight the spread of the disease.

In 2007, the governor provided the Placer Mosquito Abatement District nearly $100,000 to boost mosquito control and surveillance.

In Nevada County, Iser said three public health agencies are taking an aggressive approach to tackle the issue by offering public education, assistance with eliminating stagnant water sources, and by surveying mosquitos, dead birds and a flock of sentinel chickens to regularly check for antibodies in the Tahoe Basin.

Residents can also reduce the risk of infection by using insect repellent and dressing in long sleeves and pants when outside during dusk and dawn, Iser said.

Nevada County property owners can request a mosquito inspection visit or may report stagnant water issues by contacting the Nevada County Mosquito Control Program at 265-1500. To report a dead bird or squirrel for testing call 877-968-2473.

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