COUNTY OF FIGHT – Public health officials warn of a possible significant increase in the number of West Nile virus cases this summer.
The recent rains, combined with the difficulties left by the camp fire, create a refuge for mosquitoes. Authorities warn that several factors can contribute to one of the worst summers of West Nile virus cases if residents do not take precautions now.
"For the moment, we are really on the alert," said Matt Ball, district director of vector control and mosquitoes in Butte County. "Just a mosquito bite."
As precipitation increases, many breeding grounds and stagnant puddles are still present in the area, including various containers, gutters, septic tanks, debris and stagnant puddles. The remaining water, combined with rising temperatures, creates quite the "perfect storm" for mosquitoes in the area, according to Ball.
Historically, West Nile virus becomes active every June and begins to fade during the colder fall months around October. Although Ball has stated that some of the water sources in which mosquitoes breed will disappear as the heat returns, homeowners must remain vigilant.
"We've seen West Nile cases as early as January," said Ball. "We want our audience to be vigilant all year round. As long as Mother Nature continues to irrigate the water for free, urban drool and artificial water sources will always be a factor and will remain a problem throughout the summer. Empty unnecessary stagnant water on your property, use mosquito nets for windows and doors and people should always wear a mosquito repellent. "
Like many natural cures for fighting mosquitoes, including lemon and eucalyptus oil, Ball explained that lemongrass candles are not an effective measure against mosquitoes compared to DEET mosquito spray.
Although all birds may carry West Nile virus, Butte County's corvid hosts – crows, crows, magpies, stellar jays, and mountain jays – are primarily carriers of its virus. A mosquito must feed on an infected bird to catch the virus capable of transmitting itself to humans.
Lisa Almaguer, director of public health communications for Butte County, said Butte County was already one of the main West Nile outbreaks in California. Now with additional elements of the camp fire recovery effort and recent rains in the valley, public health officials remain vigilant.
"The West Nile virus is of concern to people in Butte County every year," Almaguer said. "The season runs from June to October and peaks in August. Butte County generally ranks among the top five counties for West Nile virus cases reported each year. We have now added concerns about the increasing number of breeding sites in the areas of the Paradise Fire Center. "
From abandoned pools, septic tanks, debris sites and drainage areas, the campfire has created a refuge for mosquito breeding sites after the recent rains. These burning areas create a list of abundant problems.
"We currently have thousands of people in our county who work in burning areas," Almaguer said. "They all work long days, starting early in the morning and ending late at night. This is a problem because mosquitoes bite early in the morning and late at night. "
Almaguer said that although most workers come from areas where West Nile is not prevalent, many simply do not know and are currently at risk of working in the Paradise area.
People infected with the virus belong to three categories, according to Almaguer:
- 80% of infected people will develop no symptoms because the virus will simply pass into their system, creating a natural immunity against it.
- 20% of those infected will develop fever and flu-like symptoms.
- 1% of those infected develop severe neurological symptoms, difficulty walking, tremors, swelling of the brain and nerve damage. These people are the most exposed because the virus can be deadly as a result of swelling of the brain.
Symptoms of West Nile virus occur 3 to 14 days after being bitten. Although West Nile virus can not be cured or vaccinated, the virus can not be transmitted from person to person. According to public health officials, the only relief for infected people is supportive care, rest and hydration.
Horses in danger
In 2018, 11 Californian horses were confirmed positive for West Nile virus, according to a Butte Public Health County press release. Six of the affected horses (54.5%) died or were euthanized. Public health officials recommend that owners contact local veterinarians to explore options, including vaccination of their horses.
The symptoms in infected horses are: tumbling or lack of coordination, drooping lips, lip slapping or grinding of teeth, general weakness, muscle contractions and / or tremors, sensitivity to touch or sound, fever, difficulty riding or inability to ride, and convulsions or coma.
The Butte County Public Health Department and Butte County Mosquito and Vectors Control District remain deeply concerned about the increase in the number of mosquitoes likely to transmit the virus in Butte County due to the series of late-season rain storms and the increase in the number of mosquito breeding sites in the camp area fire.
Once again, the district gives mosquitoes by appointment. The distribution points are the District Office, 5117 Larkin Road, Oroville, 533-638 and the Chico Post, 444 Otterson Drive, 342-7350. Appointments are mandatory.
A phone line is available for residents who find dead birds. The West Nile virus hotline is connected to a person from April to mid-October at 877-968-2473. The hotline is active from 8:00 to 16:30. From Monday to Friday, the public can also report dead birds via www.westnile.ca.gov or by visiting www.buttemosquito.com.
For more information on West Nile Virus and ways to prevent it, visit www.buttewnv.com