Health

Officials Urge West Nile Virus Vigilance

San Diego County environmental health officials have found four more dead birds that tested positive for West Nile virus — and are reminding people they should continue to protect themselves from mosquitoes in a year when even winter isn’t slowing down the disease.

The recent rains and temperatures expected to climb to summer-like levels create optimal breeding conditions for mosquitoes.

“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 County Environmental Health Department. “People should also clear their yards of standing water to keep mosquitoes from breeding.”

This year has been the worst for West Nile virus in San Diego County in recent years. Eleven county residents have gotten the disease this year — the most since 2008 — including a 78-year-old La Mesa man who became the first person to die from the disease here since 2007.

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

The four birds recently found included a red-tailed hawk in Oceanside, and a Cooper’s hawk and two ravens in San Diego. This year, the County has identified 41 dead birds with West Nile virus, the most since 38 dead birds tested positive in 2009.

Environmental Health officials urged people to remember to “Prevent, Protect, Report.”

Prevent Mosquito Breeding: Dump out or remove any backyard item 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 when outdoors. Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 when outside. 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 at (858) 694-2888 or vector@sdcounty.ca.gov.

County officials said the public can keep up with West Nile virus activity and anonymously report dead birds and green swimming pools by downloading the County’s “Fight the Bite” phone app.

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

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact