Environment

Numbers of Dead Birds Testing Positive for West Nile Virus Rising

The number of dead birds testing positive for West Nile virus in San Diego County has spiked, prompting County environmental health officials to remind people to protect themselves from mosquitoes that can transmit the disease to humans.

At the start of May, just five dead birds recovered from around the county had tested positive for the potentially deadly disease. That number has now jumped to 29 — the highest figure in the state and a number San Diego County didn’t reach until Oct. 25 in 2014.

“These are signs that 2015 might be another tough year in our county for West Nile virus, so people should remember to protect themselves and their families,” said County Department of Environmental Health Director Elizabeth Pozzebon. “Get rid of standing water around properties where mosquitoes can breed, wear insect repellent when outdoors and report dead birds.”

San Diego County has largely escaped the brunt of West Nile virus since it arrived in Southern California in 2003. But last year, 11 San Diego County residents were diagnosed with the disease, the highest number here since 2009, and two people died.

According to the California Department of Public Health, no one in the state has been diagnosed with West Nile virus so far this year. Statewide in 2014, 801 people were diagnosed with West Nile virus and 31 people died.

The latest dead birds in San Diego County to test positive, six in all, were American crows and were recovered from areas in and around Chula Vista, Spring Valley, La Mesa and Oceanside.

In addition to the dead birds, the County’s vector control program has also found two mosquito “batches” that have tested positive for West Nile virus.

County officials again 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 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 the Vector Control Program by calling (858) 694-2888, emailing  vector@sdcounty.ca.gov, or by downloading and using the County’s “Fight the Bite” mobile app.

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