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What's next? Not swine flu, but West Nile

By: Staff Report
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The El Dorado County Environmental Management and Health Services Departments are reminding residents to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and West Nile virus this year. “Warmer weather brings more mosquitoes and increased risk of (contracting) West Nile virus,” said Virginia Huber, division manager for the El Dorado County Environmental Management Department. “Effective prevention strategies include draining all sources of standing water and reporting neglected or abandoned swimming pools.” West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. As of May 8, there have been no reported cases of human infection with West Nile virus in California so far this year. However, throughout the state, 11 birds and 12 mosquito pools have already tested positive for West Nile virus. Since March, five dead birds from El Dorado County have been tested for West Nile virus but none have tested positive for the virus. Health and agriculture officials recommend horse owners contact their veterinarians about vaccinations for their horses, as horses are very susceptible to West Nile virus. Local health and environmental officials continue to conduct West Nile virus surveillance activities throughout the county. The El Dorado County Environmental Management Department operates a seasonal mosquito abatement program that includes mosquito surveillance, treatment of standing water to kill mosquito larvae, free mosquito fish, and community education, according to a statement released by the county. In addition, physicians routinely test for West Nile virus infection in persons with meningitis or encephalitis. According to Huber, most people who become infected with West Nile virus do not have symptoms of illness, however, some people, especially the elderly, can become seriously ill. People with symptoms such as high fever, confusion, a stiff neck or muscle weakness should seek immediate medical attention. Huber recommends the following tips to prevent West Nile virus: DRAIN: Empty all sources of standing water around property to reduce mosquito breeding. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas; and keep them empty or covered when not in use. DEET: Use an insect repellent containing DEET, Picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or other approved substance on exposed skin when outdoors. DUSK AND DAWN: Take extra precautions when mosquitoes are most active. DRESS: When outdoors during peak mosquito hours or in areas where mosquitoes are active, wear long sleeves and long pants. BE AWARE: Report dead birds and tree squirrels to the state hotline at (877) 968-BIRD (2473). STANDING WATER: Report neglected or abandoned swimming pools to Environmental Management at (530) 573-3450 in Tahoe or (530) 621-5300 in Placerville. For more information about West Nile virus, visit www.edcgov.us/emd, www.edcgov.us/publichealth or www.westnile.ca.gov. Information is also available on the El Dorado County West Nile Virus Hotlines at (530) 573-3405 or (530) 642-4968.