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IT BITES

Nile Virus pops up earlier than ever

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POSTED March 14, 2014 1:16 a.m.

By JAMES BURNS

The Bulletin

STOCKTON – A dead crow has signaled the earliest arrival of the West Nile virus in the San Joaquin County in a decade.

The infected bird was picked up in the Tracy area, a stretch marked by zip code 95376.

This is the earliest West Nile virus activity in the county since it was first detected in 2004, and nearly two months ahead of last year’s first detection. 

In 2013, the virus was first detected in a mosquito sample in the South County on May 20, following a mosquito attack on a pair of rafters along the Stanislaus River.

“Although there are a variety of factors contributing to the early detection, finding the first positive bird is significant because it means that the virus is present in our area,” said Aaron Devencenzi, public information officer with the San Joaquin County Mosquito and Vector Control District.

Devencenzi encourages homeowners to take preventative measures, safe-guarding their properties of mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.

“The District is increasing surveillance and mosquito control activities throughout the area. This is the time of year to being vigilantly removing standing water on individual’s property.”

Areas homeowners should check include: buckets, barrels, wheelbarrows, tires, gutters, and other containers. Broken faucets and sprinklers should also be repaired, and neglected pools should be reported to the district.

The West Nile virus can cause West Nile fever (headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting) in human cases, and in severe instances, neurological disease. People of older or younger age, as well as those with pre-existing medical conditions are most susceptible.

In 2013, there were eight human cases, 36 dead birds and 163 mosquito samples that tested positive for the West Nile virus, according to district records. The first detection of the virus was collected from mosquito samples near Caswell Memorial State Park, the site of a vicious attack on a Manteca couple.

Tracy Crane and Scott Johnson didn’t contract the West Nile virus, but they suffered an untold number of bites all over their bodies after their raft developed a slow leak and stranded them in along the Stanislaus River.

The two managed to make it to shore near Division Road in south Manteca – a flood area – but were immediately attacked by thousands of aggressive mosquitoes. The area is west of Ripon.

Johnson called 9-1-1 at approximately 8 p.m., alerting emergency officials of their predicament. However, because of the remote nature of their location and the heavy foliage, Sheriff’s officers and Ripon Fire’s water rescue unit weren’t able to reach Johnson and Crane until midnight.

For four hours, they fought a losing battle against what is believed to be the Aedes vexans, an aggressive, hostile mosquito species. Crane suffered bites to her entire body, including her eyeball. At one point, she says, she was inhaling and coughing up mosquitoes.

The Aedes vexan does not carry the West Nile virus.

The district encourages people to report all dead birds to the California Department of Public Health’s website, www.westnile.ca.gov. The hotline – 877.968.2473 –opens April 15. Though not all birds will be picked up and tested, the reports assist in mosquito surveillance and control efforts. 

Birds, such as crows, jays and magpies, are hosts for the West Nile virus. Mosquitoes transmit the disease by biting an infected bird and then biting a person or other animal. 

 

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