Warm summer weather and relaxed COVID-19 restrictions are driving even more people outdoors.
But experts are warning those who plan on spending any time outside to take the proper precautions after the West Nile Virus was detected in mosquitoes in San Joaquin County last week and with recent news that the first human cases of West Nile Virus have been announced in neighboring Stanislaus County.
According to Aaron Devencenzi of the San Joaquin Mosquito and Vector Control District, the first dead bird was discovered with the virus this year on May 28 – almost three weeks earlier than last year.
On June 16, a mosquito in a trap that was set in rural Lodi also tested positive for the West Nile Virus, and experts are expecting that number to increase throughout the county with the recent run of warm temperatures once traps that have been set are recovered and tested.
“We’re expecting to see more positives with all of the heat that we’re having right now,” Devencenzi said. “We just want people to take precautions if they’re going to be outside.”
With concerns about COVID-19 and a spike of the virus in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, news of the bird with West Nile Virus was overshadowed when it was announced back in early June.
But Monday’s news about two men having come down with the virus in Stanislaus County was concerning for experts that are trying to prevent further illness in the population. Last year, Stanislaus and San Joaquin County boasted more human cases of the virus that any of the surrounding counties combined.
The arrival of a new mosquito breed that can bite during the daytime and carry an abundance of additional viruses is keeping people like Devencenzi on their toes as they wait to see whether the Aedes aegypti mosquito – which can carry the Zika virus as well as dengue and yellow fevers – appears in any traps in the near future.
“We’re still trapping for it and there is still a high level of concern about that species,” Devencenzi said. “If anybody has experienced daytime biting we want them to call the district and let us know where they experienced it.”
In order to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses from spreading, the district encourages people to take a number of steps to prevent themselves being bitten and being mindful of the hours in which mosquitoes are most active – typically dusk and dawn.
*Checking your property for standing water and eliminating it as needed. Abandoned swimming pools were a major breeding ground for mosquitos during the economic downturn, but something as small as an old tire or a bucket that has collected rain or sprinkler water can provide the environment necessary for mosquitos to breed.
*Applying mosquito repellant that contains the ingredients DEET or Picaridin when outdoors in accordance with usage instructions.
*Avoiding being outside when mosquitoes are the most active, which is typically at dawn and at dusk, and especially for the first two hours after sunset.
*Wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and other protective clothing when forced to be outdoors – especially during peak activity times.
*Making sure that windows and doors have tight-fitting screens to keep active mosquitoes outside of the home.
The virus is typically carried by birds and transmitted by mosquitos who feed on their carcasses and then bite humans. The State of California has a website to report dead birds for removal and subsequent study that can be found at www.westnile.ca.gov.
To report unusually strong mosquito infestations or daytime biting contact the San Joaquin Mosquito and Vector Control District at 209.982.4675 or visit them on the web at www.sjmosquito.org.