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County officials report first human case of West Nile Virus

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POSTED July 29, 2013 1:39 p.m.

STOCKTON – Normally the first West Nile virus infections of the year are found in livestock.

But on Monday, San Joaquin County Public Health Services issued a statement announcing that the first human case of 2013 was discovered after the screening of a blood donation.

The donor, a 65-year-old Stockton man, was reportedly asymptomatic, and even though the stipulations don’t technically qualify it as a case to the California Department of Public Health, the county indicated that the situation quantifies that West Nile virus is being transmitted to residents.

The disease, which typically thrives in tropical conditions, is transmitted by mosquito bites. Hot weather typically leads to an uptick in mosquito activity because standing water from sprinklers and abandoned swimming pools make ideal conditions for reproduction.

“It is important that people that precautions to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites,” said San Joaquin County Health Officer Dr. Karen Furst.

Local officials have been attempting to prevent cases like the one reported Monday ever since the virus was first seen in the local area. With a strong agricultural presence, summer moisture leads to strong mosquito activity near fields and dairies – leading the San Joaquin County Mosquito and Vector Control district to spray fields and rural areas in an attempt to keep the population down.

According to vector control district manager Eddie Lucchesi, the best defense that residents can expect is their own diligence – making sure that their side yards aren’t becoming incubation chambers for mosquito larvae.

The foreclosure crisis brought with it abandoned swimming pools – leading 2012 to become the deadliest West Nile Virus year on-record – but something much smaller can provide everything mosquitoes need.

Only a few inches of water, he said, in something a small as an empty fruit can sustain the life cycle of mosquitoes. Tires and buckets are also something that people overlook, and few, he said, realize that their sprinklers can generate the amount of water needed if a receptacle is nearby.

“People tend to think that it only happens during the spring months with the winter rains, but there are a lot of things that can create the amount of water needed to create that environment,” Lucchesi said. “A five gallon bucket of water can literally infect an entire city block, so homeowners and residents should remain diligent to remove the threat before it occurs.”

While preventing all mosquitoes from existing is impossible, learning to adapt, Lucchesi said, and prevent oneself from becoming a victim is as simple as choosing the right articles of clothing.

Despite the heat, Lucchesi recommends that if people are going to be out at dawn or at dusk – something that he urges people not to do because that’s when they’re at their most active and looking for a blood meal – that they wear long-sleeves and pants and a collar if possible. Using mosquito repellant that has in the ingredient Deet is also recommended.

“People need to be diligent about the putting themselves in a situation where they could be exposed to the mosquitoes that might be carrying the West Nile virus,” he said. “It’s important to protect yourself, and whenever you can remove yourself from a situation where that possibly exists, we recommend that.”

The first West Nile Virus case in San Joaquin County last year also occurred in July.

To contact Jason Campbell, email jcampbell@mantecabulletin.com or call (209) 249-3544.

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