The recent spate of very hot weather, coupled with an abundantly wet spring, could be prime conditions for West Nile virus. The Placer County Department of Health and Human Services and the Placer Mosquito Abatement District remind residents and visitors to take precautions against possible infection from the virus, which can be passed to humans through bites by infected mosquitoes.


“With people being outdoors more with the warmer weather, the most important message we can give is that the disease is preventable if a few simple precautions are taken,” said Dr. Richard J. Burton, Placer County Public Health Officer. “It’s also a good idea to cover up with long sleeves and pants, use a repellant and avoid being outside at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. These can significantly reduce your chances of being bitten by an infected mosquito.”
 
“Recent findings of WNV-positive birds in areas close to but outside of Placer County, should serve to warn residents to take all steps necessary to protect themselves from mosquito bites,” said Charlie Dill, Manager of the Placer Mosquito Abatement District. “It is especially important to check your property for standing water and eliminate it.”


West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that become infected when they bite infected birds. The mosquitoes can then infect humans or horses through bites. Last year Placer County 36 humans were infected by the virus. Additionally, there were infected birds, mosquitoes, chickens, horses and 36 humans. Statewide, 935 people were infected in 2005 and there were 19 fatalities.


Most people who get West Nile virus from infected mosquitoes won’t become ill. About 20 percent may experience mild-to-moderate flu-like symptoms, which may be prolonged.


About one in 150 people will become very ill. People over 50 and those with suppressed or compromised immune systems are more likely to become seriously ill. West Nile virus is rare, but people with symptoms, including high fever, severe headache and stiff neck, should contact health care providers immediately. 


The Placer Mosquito Abatement District and Placer County Health and Human Services offer the following additional reminders to prevent the spread of West Nile virus:


• Drain standing water weekly, since that’s where mosquitoes lay eggs. Check your yard for water in old tires, flower pots and bird baths.
• Avoid mosquito bites by staying indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, wearing long sleeves and long pants, and using an insect repellant that contains DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus.  
• Dead birds that test positive for West Nile virus are a surveillance tool to help track the disease.  If you find a dead bird, please call the state at 1-877-WNV-BIRD to report it, or do so online at www.westnile.ca.gov.
• Horses are vulnerable to West Nile virus, and many die.  Contact your veterinarian about protective immunizations. West Nile does not spread between humans and horses.


For more information or free presentations or materials, call the Placer Mosquito Abatement District at 916-435-2140.  You can also obtain good information online at www.placermosquito.org or www.placer.ca.gov/wnv.

*Placer County