Dead Crow First Local West Nile Virus Sign of 2013

July 11, 2013 | 4:13pm

A dead American crow found near Lakeside has tested positive for West Nile virus, making it the first local sign this year of the sometimes-fatal disease.

Last year was one of the worst on record for West Nile virus across the United States, but not here, where the County of San Diego has taken aggressive steps to control mosquitoes that can spread the disease. Just two San Diegans have been diagnosed locally with West Nile virus in the last three years: one did not become ill, the other became infected while visiting Imperial County.

However, more than 5,000 people got sick and 286 died nationwide from the disease in 2012. County officials said local residents should remember to protect themselves.

“This is a good reminder that West Nile virus is here, but also that people can protect themselves by taking some simple precautions,” said Jack Miller, Director of the County Department of Environmental Health.

Miller said residents should remember the phrase “Protect, Prevent, Report.”

Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites by staying inside when mosquitoes are most active and by wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors, especially at dawn or dusk. Use insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or IR 3535 when you are outdoors. Keep screens on doors and windows and make sure the screens are in good condition.

Prevent Mosquito Breeding by dumping out or removing backyard water sources that can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, such as: plant saucers, rain gutters, buckets, trash cans, children’s toys, old spare tires and wheelbarrows. Mosquito fish may be used to control mosquito breeding in backyard water sources such as unused swimming pools, ponds, fountains and horse troughs.

Report Dead Birds and Green Swimming Pools by calling County Vector Control at 858-694-2888 to report green swimming pools, dead crows, jays, ravens and birds of prey.

West Nile virus is mainly a bird disease that can be spread to people when mosquitoes feed on an infected animal and then on a person. Eight out 10 people who become infected with West Nile virus suffer no symptoms at all. Those who do get sick may suffer mild symptoms: headache, fever, nausea, fatigue, skin rash or swollen glands. In rare cases, people can suffer serious neurologic complications that can be life threatening. The risk of severe illness increases for those over age 50 and for people with weakened immune systems

For more information about West Nile virus or to find locations to get free mosquito fish visit www.SDFightTheBite.com. Sign up to receive the latest West Nile virus text message updates via cellphone by texting the word PEST to 75309 on your cellphone.