Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Division of Environmental Health

PRESS RELEASE

Date Released: 3/31/2005
Subject: West Nile Awareness Week
Contact: Brent Whitener, Vector Control Officer, Division of Environmental Health
Phone: (707) 268-2203 or 445-6215

State declares West Nile Awareness Week as county resumes mosquito surveillance

California legislators have set April 25 through May 1st as West Nile Virus (WNV) and Mosquito and Vector Control Awareness Week for 2005. Last year, 840 California residents contracted the mosquito borne disease, and 27 deaths were reported statewide. For the third year, the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services is resuming local mosquito surveillance efforts to help assess the risk to county residents. West Nile Virus arrived in Humboldt County last summer, when the virus was found in sixteen wild birds. There were no human or horse cases of the disease confirmed in Humboldt County during 2004.

Dead bird surveillance for WNV in Humboldt County continued through the winter months, with twenty birds submitted for testing so far this year. Three birds have been found positive for WNV. A house sparrow from the Ferndale area was confirmed in mid-February. In the past two weeks, a barn owl from Highway 101 near Hookton Road, and a pine siskin, a member of the finch family, found in Myrtletown have also tested WNV positive. These three birds were most likely infected last fall.

“Our spring time mosquitoes have been emerging for the past several weeks. The mosquito that carries West Nile Virus won’t appear until the summertime, lasting from mid-June through late September. The positive birds serve as an early reminder to be prepared for the summer mosquito season” according to Brent Whitener, Vector Control Officer at the Division of Environmental Health.

Dead birds can be reported to the WNV hot line at 1-877-WNV-BIRD (1-877-968-2473) and will be picked up by Humboldt County Division of Environmental Health. The State’s hot line received over 90,000 calls from California residents last year. Residents are also encouraged to check around their homes and remove likely mosquito breeding spots. This becomes especially important as rains taper off and the summer season begins.

Horse owners are urged to contact their veterinarian about the equine vaccine and annual booster shots to help protect their animals against WNV. Dogs, cats, and other house pets are seldom at risk. Residents with questions about WNV or mosquitoes can call the Division of Environmental Health at 445-6215 or toll free at 1-800-963-9241.

 

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