Sometime, the annoying whine of a mosquito heralds more than an itchy bite: reports of human West Nile virus infections in California are rising, authorities said.
Labor Day weekend means more Orange County residents spending time outdoors, increasing the chance of a dangerous mosquito bite. The Orange County Vector Control District is urging residents to make a concerted effort to reduce their exposure to bites to prevent West Nile infections.
“The tragic outbreak of West Nile virus in Texas and throughout the Midwest underscores the continued danger of this virus, as reports of human infections in California begin to rise," OCVCD Board of Trustees President James Gomez said. "Compared to surrounding counties, Orange County is currently reporting fewer positive findings of West Nile virus in mosquito, birds, and humans. Our current level of reduced virus activity can be attributed to the vigilance of residents and vector control, partnering in the shared responsibility of mosquito breeding source reduction. However, these reports should not lead residents to believe that the threat of WNV infection is absent from the county.”
The agency routinely tests groups of female mosquitoes and dead birds for the presence of West Nile virus.
A dead bird that tested positive for West Nile virus was found in Laguna Beach earlier this year.
High temperatures, such as those Orange County has been experiencing recently, decrease the time required for mosquitoes to develop from egg to adult, resulting in larger populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes.
Residents need to remember that West Nile virus is "endemic in Orange County and should be considered an ongoing threat to public health even during times of reduced virus transmission,” said Robert Cummings, director of scientific technical services.
OCVCD offers the following tips for avoiding exposure to West Nile:
- DRAIN: Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including buckets, old car tires, and pet bowls. If you have a pond, use mosquito fish (available from OCVCD) or commercially available products to eliminate mosquito larvae.
- DAWN AND DUSK: Mosquitoes that carry WNV bite in the early morning and evening. It is important to use repellent and wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure to mosquito bites during this time.
- DEFEND: Use an EPA-registered insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 according to label instructions. Repellents keep mosquitoes from biting. Make sure your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.
To report dead birds or neglected swimming pools to the Orange County Vector Control District, call 714-971-2421 or 949-654-2421, or fill out this online request form.