By Mary O’KEEFE
The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District has confirmed a case of West Nile Virus discovered in the Sunland Park area.
“I can tell you every year the valley lights up with [West Nile Virus cases],” said Truc Dever, director of community affairs for the Greater L.A. County Vector Control District.
The virus, commonly transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, was first detected in the U.S. on the east coast in 1999. The first case in California was confirmed in 2002.
This year has seen one fatality in Los Angeles County and one in Sacramento County from the virus.
The symptoms are often like that of the flu with headaches, muscle soreness and a possible rash.
“The [number] of people who suffer severe symptoms is pretty small,” Dever said.
About 70% to 80% of those who become infected do not develop any symptoms at all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Less than 1% of infected people will develop a serious neurological illness like encephalitis or meningitis. About 10% of those severe cases will be fatal.
The most susceptible are the very young and the elderly, Dever said.
“It is up to your body, how you will react,” she added.
Mosquitoes most often carry the virus, so the best way to prevent the virus is to prevent breeding grounds like standing water in pools and backyard ponds.
“Eliminate standing water at your home,” Dever advised. “Backyard sources are the primary sources for mosquito breeding,”
The larger public areas are monitored regularly; it is the private homes that are difficult for agencies to deal with.
“That is why we want to partner with the public,” she said.
The local state agencies encourage residents to make certain their backyards are clear of standing water not only from untended pools but from smaller sources like recycling containers that are stored and containers that can collect rainwater or water from sprinklers.
“Only a few millimeters is enough for [mosquitoes] to lay eggs and to turn into biting adults,” Dever said. “It only takes five days.”
The state agencies advise people in affected areas to protect themselves from being bit by mosquitoes by avoiding active areas between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, applying mosquito repellent containing the active ingredient DEET when outside, wearing protective clothing like loose, light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants and mosquito proofing homes with tight-fitting, maintained screens on windows and doors.
For more information, contact the Greater LA County Vector Control District at (818) 364-9589 or visit http://westnile.ca.gov or www.glacvcd.org.