CDC Director Visits California, Urges Citizens to Take Precautions Against West Nile Virus

LOS ANGELES The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says early indications are that Californians should prepare for the possibility of a severe West Nile Virus season. The director of the CDC, Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, met with state and county health officials last week to discuss strategies for fighting the mosquito-borne disease.

 

To date, there are 16 cases of West Nile Virus in California, two cases in Los Angeles County, 11 cases in San Bernardino County, and three cases in Riverside County. Nationwide, a total of 78 cases have been reported from eight states.

 

This years West Nile Virus season is off to a pretty fast start in some parts of the West and history tells us that we need to prepare for the worse, said Gerberding. People should know that there are steps they can take to protect themselves and we need to encourage them to take these steps right now.

 

WNV is spread to humans from the bite of an infected mosquito; a mosquito is infectedby biting a bird that carries the virus. Most mosquitoes do not carry the virus and most people bitten by a mosquito do not become infected with West Nile. The virus is NOT spread by personto- person contact or directly from birds to humans.

 

Its absolutely critical that the public take a proactive approach in protecting themselves from West Nile Virus, said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health and health officer. The spread of this infection can be reduced by eliminating sources of standing water, using insect repellant containing DEET, and avoiding areas with mosquitoes, especially around dusk and dawn.

 

In most cases people who are infected never become sick or have only very mild symptoms that include fever, headache, nausea, body aches and a mild skin rash. Fewer than one out of 150 people who are bitten by an infected mosquito get severely ill. The virus can in rare cases cause encephalitis and death. The elderly are most at risk for severe complications of the disease. Other than supportive care there is no specific treatment for West Nile virus.

 

What Residents Can Do

 

Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water (even a small amount in a flowerpot saucer) and it takes as few as four days for eggs to grow into adults ready to fly. Residents are asked to eliminate all sources of standing water around their property:

-- Do not allow water to sit in old tires, flowerpots, trash, swimming poolss, birdbaths, pet bowls, etc.

-- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools; drain water from pool covers. Mosquitoes can breed in chlorinated water; fine-screen skimmers collect larvae.

-- Stock garden ponds with goldfish or mosquito fish. They eat the mosquito eggs and larvae. Mosquito fish are free to county residents. These fish are tiny enough for birdbaths and multiply fast enough to maintain a viable population.

 

Precautions include:

-- Avoid mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk.

-- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.

-- Use insect repellent products with no more than 35  percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children.

-- Ensure your windows are covered with screens that do not have holes. Although the vast majority of WNV infections in animals have been identified in birds, WNV has been shown to infect horses, cats, bats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, and domestic rabbits. An equine WNV vaccine recently became available for horses. For more information, visit www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/ah. The public is encouraged to report if a recently dead bird (dead less than 24 hours) is found; contact 1-877-747-2243. More information is available on the DHS website at www.ladhs.org.

 

Source: Los Angeles County Public Health Department

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