The El Dorado County Environmental Management and Health Services departments received confirmation earlier this week that a bird found in El Dorado County has tested positive for West Nile virus, the first for 2011.
The bird, a swallow, was found on Aug. 22 south of the town of El Dorado. There have been no human cases of West Nile virus reported in the County this year.
“Confirmation of our first West Nile virus positive birds means the virus is circulating in the community and there is a heightened risk of infection in humans,” said Fred Sanford, supervising environmental health specialist with the Environmental Management Department. “Residents are urged to take extra precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes pick up the virus when they feed on infected birds. The illness is not spread from person-to-person. Most people infected with West Nile virus show no symptoms. However, some people may experience high fever, severe headache, tiredness and/or a stiff neck which may last several days to several weeks. The most serious cases of West Nile virus infection can lead to encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, which can be fatal.
Mosquito surveillance programs are in place in the county. Programs include trapping and testing mosquitoes, reporting neglected swimming pools, and reporting and testing dead birds and tree squirrels. The Health Services Department has instituted human surveillance activities, and physicians are encouraged to test human cases of viral meningitis and encephalitis for West Nile virus.
To reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes Sanford recommends the following:
• Drain standing water around property and keep water in swimming pools, ponds and water troughs circulating or treated with “Mosquito Dunks” or mosquito fish.
• Apply insect repellent containing DEET or another approved substance (e.g. picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535) on exposed skin when outdoors among mosquitoes.
• Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. While outside among mosquitoes, dress in long sleeves and long pants.
• Make sure doors and windows have tight fitting screens, kept in good condition.
Report dead birds and tree squirrels to the State West Nile Virus hotline at (877) WNV-BIRD (877-968-2473) or online at westnile.ca.gov. Wear gloves and place dead birds or squirrels in a double plastic bag if disposing of them yourself.
• Report mosquito problems and/or neglected swimming pools to the El Dorado County Environmental Management Department at (530) 621-5300 in Placerville or (530) 573-3450 in South Lake Tahoe. Additional West Nile virus information is available at westnile.ca.gov or edcgov.us/emd.