ABC’s of your Health: West Nile Virus claims the life of Valley resident

Culex Pipeins or more commonly known as a house mosquito carries the West Nile virus.
Culex Pipeins or more commonly known as a house mosquito carries the West Nile virus.

West Nile Virus claimed the first death in the Central Valley, the Fresno County Department of Public Health confirmed.

On Aug. 22, the FCDPH announced that it has received notification of a human death caused by West Nile virus (WNV) in Fresno County.

Health officials also received notification of a positive Saint Louis Encephalitis (SLE) virus human case.

“This tragic death from West Nile Virus and this severe illness from St Louis Encephalitis in Fresno County are strong reminders that everyone should increase efforts to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites,” said Dr. Ken Bird, Fresno County Deputy Health Officer. “August and September are peak periods of West Nile virus transmission in Fresno County.”

As of Aug. 22, 2019, FCDPH has reported 26 positive human cases of WNV this year, and that number is expected to increase.

“I urge everyone to take every possible precaution to protect themselves against mosquito Bites,” said Bird.

The Fresno man becomes the second to die of West Nile virus in California this year. The other fatality was reported in Imperial county.

With increasing West Nile Virus Activity in the state, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has urged all Californians to protect themselves from mosquito bites during West Nile virus (WNV) season, which extends from now through early fall.

“West Nile virus activity in the state is increasing, so it is important to take every possible precaution to protect against mosquito bites,” said State Public Health Officer and CDPH Director Dr. Karen Smith early this summer.

West Nile virus spreads to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.

At this time, FCDPH is collaborating with Fresno County mosquito abatement districts and the Central California Blood Center to increase awareness about mosquito activity.

As of Aug. 22, the counties of San Joaquín, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern, were counties in the Central Valley with West Nile virus activity.

The state had reported 45 Human cases in 11 counties including San Joaquín (two), Stanislaus (1), Fresno (26), Tulare (4) and Kern (1).

Early this month, Tulare County Public Health and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) investigated four cases of suspected West Nile Virus (WNV) infection -three adult males and one child who had been affected.

According to county health officials, three of the individuals were from the Visalia area and one from Tulare. The West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, and there is no vaccine or medication to treat the virus.

Delta Vector Control has also confirmed that the St. Louis Encephalitis Virus (SLEV) has been detected in mosquitos in Tulare County.

According to CDPH, the late-spring rains have contributed to standing water, which serves as a breeding source for mosquitoes that can spread WNV. Hot temperatures also contribute to increasing numbers of breeding mosquitoes and an increased risk of virus transmission to humans.

According to CHPH, in 2018, there were 217 reported WNV cases in California, including 11 deaths. Since WNV was first introduced into California in 2003, there have been more than 6,000 human WNV cases and 303 WNV-related deaths across the state. Last year West Nile virus activity was detected in 41 counties in the state.

West Nile virus is influenced by many factors, including climate, the number and types of birds and mosquitoes in an area, and the level of WNV immunity in birds. For most people, the risk of developing serious illness is low.

However, some individuals – less than one percent – can develop serious neurologic illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis. People 50 years of age and older, and individuals with diabetes or hypertension, have a higher chance of getting sick and are more likely to develop complications from WNV infection.

CDPH recommends that people protect against mosquito bites and WNV by practicing the “Three Ds”:

1. DEET – Apply U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 according to label instructions. EPA-registered repellents are recommended for use because they have been tested for safety and efficacy in preventing mosquito bites. Insect repellents should not be used on children under two months of age. For more information, visit CDPH’s insect repellent toolkit.

2. DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes that transmit WNV usually bite in the early morning and evening, so it is important to wear proper clothing and repellent if outside during these times. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.

3. DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property by emptying flower pots, old car tires, buckets, and other containers. If you know of a swimming pool that is not being properly maintained, please contact your local mosquito and vector control agency.

California’s West Nile virus website includes the latest information on WNV activity in the state. Californians are encouraged to report dead birds on the website or by calling toll-free 1-877-WNV-BIRD (968-2473).

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud