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Four birds die in Manteca from West Nile virus

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POSTED June 14, 2012 2:04 a.m.

LATHROP — Warm weather and standing water means mosquitoes.

And while the San Joaquin County Mosquito and Vector Control District is aggressively spraying to control adult male populations and education efforts are underway to let residents know which backyard environments can serve as breeding grounds, the pesky mosquitoes are still a summer staple in the Central Valley.

But that doesn’t mean that residents have to let the threat of West Nile Virus go unchecked.

During Monday’s Lathrop City Council budget meeting, Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal inquired about what residents should do if they find a dead bird in their yard or when they’re out at a park – something that can pose a significant health hazard if not handled properly.

According to Aaron Devencenzi of the Mosquito and Vector Control District, birds serve as reservoir hosts for the West Nile Virus. Anybody that comes across one should contact the State of California’s hotline which will provide more information about how to proceed.

The first confirmed West Nile virus infected birds in San Joaquin County this year were found in Manteca. To date, eight of the state’s 98 birds that have died so far this year are from San Joaquin County.

“With any dead animal you definitely don’t want to handle them with your bare hands,” Devencenzi said. “It’s best to use an inverted bag or a shovel or something like that to remove it from your yard.

“Contacting the state will determine whether the specimen is good enough to be tested and if so we’ll come out and pick it up. That helps us determine where the virus has been detected within the county.”

To date, Devencenzi says that four birds from Manteca and one from Lathrop have tested positive since the virus arrived nine years ago.

And there’s no chance of it going away anytime soon.

Devencenzi says that even though spraying goes on in rural areas to control the populations and hopefully curtail the spread – preventing transfer from mosquitoes to humans – the virus is endemic in San Joaquin County. It is something that the district will continue to battle along with encephalitis and other mosquito-borne viruses and illnesses.

While being inside during the dawn and dusk hours when activity is most prevalent is the best way to avoid bites and therefore lower the risk of any diseases or viruses, Devencenzi says that repellant spray containing Deet is the other best defense that county residents have.

The lower the percentage, he says, the more often the repellant has to be applied.

“The best method of prevention is staying indoors when populations are the most active,” he said. “Repellants are the other way to prevent bites and it’s something we recommend if you’re going to be outdoors.”

Those looking to report a dead bird can call 1-877-968-BIRD (2473). Additional information about California’s West Nile Virus plan can be found at http://www.westnile.ca.gov/resources.php.

For local resources visit www.sjmosquito.org.

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