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L. A. County warns of West Nile virus threat

L. A. County warns of West Nile virus threat

Recently, the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District confirmed that three additional mosquito samples tested positive for West Nile virus, bringing the total to 28 this year. So far this year, 62 human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in California, with one person affected in Lakewood.

It's a reminder to everyone to be cautious and proactive to avoid getting bit by a mosquito.

Here are a few reminders about the transmission of West Nile Virus:

  • Only Culex (the common brown mosquitoes) transmit the virus, to people, horses and birds. Those annoying "ankle biter" Aedes mosquitoes do not.
  • Culex mosquitoes must bite an infected bird, animal or person in order to transmit it. If you see a dead bird, please call 1-877-WNV-BIRD to report it.
  • You have no way of knowing if any mosquito is carrying West Nile Virus, so be sure to protect yourself with insect repellant containing DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Mosquitoes do not fly far, so if you are getting bites, the water may be in your yard. If you are unable to find and remove the source yourself, contact the Greater L.A. County Vector Control District at 562-944-9656 or www.ReportMosquitoes.org. Their free services include inspection and treatment.

The district urges residents to take the following steps to combat mosquitoes:

• Eliminate standing water in clogged rain gutters, rain barrels, discarded tires, buckets or anything that holds water for more than a week. Scrub containers thoroughly to dislodge eggs in crevices and along the waterline.

• Ensure that swimming pools, spas and ponds are properly maintained.

• Change the water in pet dishes, birdbaths and other small containers weekly.

• If you have a fountain or pond, ask Vector Control for free mosquitofish that eat mosquito larvae and pupae. Learn more at www.GLACVCD.org.

• Wear EPA-recommended insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus when outdoors where mosquitoes may be present.

• Check window screens.

• Report neglected (green) swimming pools in your neighborhood to your vector control district.

The Culex (common house) mosquito, indigenous to Southern California, is a mildly aggressive pest that requires standing water to lay their eggs. The newest invader, the tiny Aedes (“ankle biter”) mosquito, whose eggs have been found clinging to the dry surface of a container even after every drop of water has been removed, are more persistent.

There is no cure for West Nile virus. One in five persons infected with the virus will exhibit symptoms, which can include fever, headache, body aches, nausea or a skin rash. These symptoms can last for several days to months. One in 150 people infected with the virus will require hospitalization. Severe symptoms include high fever, muscle weakness, neck stiffness, coma, paralysis and possibly death.

Aedes mosquitoes, which can transmit the Zika virus (but not West Nile Virus), are small and black with white stripes, active and biting during the day. They can live indoors or outdoors. Unlike the common house mosquito, they prefer human blood and bite repeatedly, particularly right after sunrise. They lay eggs along the waterline of any water-holding container such as vases, plant saucers, buckets, used tires, and even plants that hold water, like bamboo or bromeliads. These eggs can remain alive for years, and hatch into larvae when conditions are right. Immature mosquitoes can be seen swimming in stagnant water.

For more information on Aedes and other mosquitoes, visit www.glacvcd.org.

Report untreated swimming pools to Lakewood City Hall by calling 562-866-9771, extension 2140, or emailing service1@lakewoodcity.org.

If you find any dead birds or squirrels (which could be a sign of West Nile virus), report them by calling the West Nile Virus Dead Bird Hotline at 877-968-2473.