County urges precautions against West Nile virus

Health

Biting mosquito

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SAN DIEGO — Four dead birds found recently in San Diego and Oceanside tested positive for West Nile virus, prompting county authorities Tuesday to urge the public to take precautions.

One dead red-tailed hawk was found in Oceanside, and a Cooper’s hawk and two ravens were collected in San Diego, according to the county Department of Environmental Health.

Eleven county residents have contracted the disease this year — the most since 2008 — including a 78-year-old La Mesa man who became the first person locally to die from the disease in seven years.

By contrast, only two people were diagnosed with West Nile virus between 2010 and 2013 in San Diego County.

“Remember to use insect repellents, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants if you’re out at dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active,” said Elizabeth Pozzebon, director of the DEH. “People should also clear their yards of standing water to keep mosquitoes from breeding.”

The recent rainstorms and this week’s higher-than-normal temperatures are creating perfect mosquito breeding conditions, according to the DEH. Since the insects breed in standing water, rain water that might have collected in buckets, wheelbarrows, plant saucers, rain gutters or other locations in yards should be dumped.

Screen windows and doors should be checked to make sure they’re in good condition and secured.

Also, people should report swimming pools in vacated homes that have turned green, and dead birds that didn’t obviously die from another cause, to 858-694-2888 or vector@sdcounty.ca.gov.

Four out of five people bitten by a mosquito carrying WNV won’t have symptoms. Of those who do get sick, most will have a mild headache, fever, nausea, skin rash or swollen glands.

The symptoms turn life-threatening in one out of 150 cases, mainly for people over 50 years old or those with weakened immune systems.

So far this year, 41 birds tested by the county have had West Nile virus, the most since 2009.

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