Environment

Number of Birds Infected with West Nile Virus Tops 2014

Fifty dead birds infected with West Nile virus have been collected in San Diego County midway through 2015 — more than the 41 collected in all of 2014 — County Department of Environmental Health officials said this week.

In the last week 14 dead birds have tested positive for West Nile virus and pushed this year’s total past last year’s, environmental health officials said.

No people have been diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease in San Diego County or in California so far this year. But San Diego officials reminded people again this week to protect themselves from mosquitoes, which can transmit the disease to humans. Last year 11 San Diegans were diagnosed with West Nile virus and two people died.

“There are simple things people can do to help protect themselves,” said environmental health Director Elizabeth Pozzebon. “Get rid of standing water in and around your home so mosquitoes can’t breed, wear insect repellent and report dead birds to our vector control program by calling or emailing them.”

The latest infected birds were collected from various parts of the county, including Carmel Valley, City Heights, El Cajon, La Mesa, Oceanside, Ramona, Spring Valley and the city of San Diego.

The 50 infected birds aren’t close to San Diego County’s record. In 2008, the County collected 563 dead birds with the disease. Still, environmental health officials said people should protect themselves.

Most people — roughly 80 percent — never get sick when infected with West Nile virus. About 20 percent can experience mild flu-like symptoms. But in rare cases, less than 1 percent, those who are infected can get severely ill and even die. In 2008, the County suffered its highest total of human cases when 37 people were diagnosed with West Nile virus.

San Diego County has largely been spared from the ravages of West Nile virus since it arrived here in 2003. In 12 years, 73 San Diegans have been diagnosed with the disease and three people have died, including the two last year. By contrast, in 2014 alone 801 Californians were diagnosed with the disease and 37 of them died.

San Diego County environmental health officials urged people to remember to “Prevent, Protect, Report.”

Prevent Mosquito Breeding: Dump out or remove any item inside or outside of homes that can hold water, such as plant saucers, rain gutters, buckets, garbage cans, toys, old tires, and wheelbarrows. Mosquito fish, available for free, may be used to control mosquito breeding in backyard water sources such as unused swimming pools, ponds, fountains and horse troughs.

Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites: Protect yourself from West Nile virus by staying inside when most mosquitoes are most active, at dusk and dawn. Wear long sleeves and pants or use repellent when outdoors. Use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. Make sure screens on windows and doors are in good condition and secured to keep insects out.

Report Dead Birds and Green Swimming Pools: Report dead crows, ravens, jays, hawks and owls, and green swimming pools to environmental health’s Vector Control Program by calling (858) 694-2888 or emailing vector@sdcounty.ca.gov.

For more information about West Nile virus, go to San Diego County’s “Fight the Bite” website.

 

 

Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact