West Nile virus on the rise in area cities

PICO RIVERA - Five mosquito samples collected in Pico Rivera have tested positive for West Nile virus, vector control officials announced this week.The mosquitoes were collected from the 90660 zip code and come the same week a Los Angeles County woman died from West Nile virus. Cases of West Nile virus are on the rise throughout Southern California. "There is also a reportable increase of West Nile virus activity in Lakewood, Canoga Park, Sherman Oaks, South El Monte as well as the Los Angeles River corridor...," said Cynthia Miller, public information officer for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District, based in Santa Fe Springs. "We have reported activity in these cities and communities previously, and discovered activity has expanded in these areas - meaning additional mosquito traps in the same general vicinity have come up West Nile virus-positive this week." So far this year, 188 mosquito samples, 51 dead birds and four chickens have tested positive for West Nile virus in L.A. County. Seven people have died in California as a result. West Nile virus is transmitted to people and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Approximately one in five people who are infected with West Nile virus will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting or rash. A small amount of people will develop a serious neurologic illness, and about 10 percent of these people will die, officials said. There is no cure for West Nile virus. Residents are urged to guard against West Nile virus by reporting dead birds to vector control and eliminating standing water around their home. Mosquitoes in Southern California are most active between dusk and dawn. For more information, contact vector control at (562) 944-9656 or glacvcd.org. Meanwhile, after a year of surveillance and control efforts directed at an infestation of Asian tiger mosquitoes, the population "continues to persist," officials said. The mosquitoes were first discovered in El Monte and South El Monte last September and while the infestation has not expanded beyond the two city's borders, it has been found in additional properties. To date, Asian tiger mosquitoes have been identified on approximately 240 properties in the two-city area. The Asian tiger mosquito is an aggressive day-biting mosquito capable of transmitting diseases like dengue fever and chikungunya currently not present in Southern California. The mosquitoes thrive in urban developments with standing water and humid microclimates in lush landscapes. It is a weak flyer, however, and local control efforts "can have dramatic results," officials said. Crews of vector ecologists and control technicians are conducting door-to-door campaigns performing surveillance, eliminating mosquito breeding sites and conducting treatments as necessary. Residents are required to remove containers that hold water and prevent standing water on their property. "Most residents have been fantastic about helping us eliminate this very real health risk, but the one or two residents in a neighborhood that hinder access or fail to clean their property make eradication impossible," said Tera Sorvillo, a vector ecologist overseeing the eradication effort. "Within weeks of treatment, the mosquitoes are back." Vector officials warned they will begin issuing a "notice to abate" to noncompliant properties. California law provides broad authority to vector control districts to abate public health problems and any property that provides conditions favorable to mosquito reproduction can be fined up to $1,000 per day plus the cost of abatement. "We have worked with some residents for over a year without success. If we have any chance at eradicating this mosquito, sterner measures will be necessary," said Kenn Fujioka, district manager of the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District. Officials said they have controlled the Asian tiger mosquito only in neighborhoods "where residents actively participate in the eradication effort." "These Asian tiger mosquitoes are a community problem requiring community support and action," said Truc Denver, director of community affairs for GLACVCD. "We're asking all residents to work with us to remove containers that hold standing water and backyard trash so that we can effectively combat this public health threat."

********** Published: September 27, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 24