Health Alert: West Nile in COWnty

June 13, 2013

The San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District has reported that West Nile virus, a sometimes debilitating contagious disease spread by mosquito bites, has been detected in two dead birds found in our COWnty in June. One bird was found near Hillsdale and the other was found in the Hayward Park area in San Mateo,. Five cases were found in the COWnty last year, and more are expected this year as the weather warms up and mosquitoes start to breed in earnest. The virus was first found in the United States in 1999 and in California in 2003, becoming more common each year. You can learn all of the facts about West Nile here.

West Nile is often passed between infected birds by mosquitoes, and humans can be infected when an infected mosquito bites a person, though this is fairly rare. So far this year 20 cases have been discovered throughout the State, with one human case reported in Sacramento. Other animals can be infected as well – both dogs and cats can get it, though they generally have few symptoms. Horses as well are vulnerable to West Nile virus, which can cause fever, limb weakness or paralysis, and even seizures and comas. A vaccine is available for horses but not for other animals or humans.

In human beings, eighty percent of the people who are infected have no symptoms. The other twenty percent, however, get symptoms that feel like flu – fever, aches, skin rashes and nausea. One in 150 people however can get severe neurological symptoms that can include disorientation, tremors, paralysis, coma, blindness or death! So obviously, if you feel like you are ill, you should seek medical attention immediately. People older than age 55 are most vulnerable.

The best way to combat West Nile virus is to be smart about mosquitoes. Eliminate standing water on your property and anywhere that mosquitoes can breed, put mosquito fish into ponds available for free from the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District., as well as putting tight fitting screens on your home. Avoid areas and times of day with mosquito activity and wear repellants with DEET.

The District also asks that you report freshly-dead squirrels and birds to them for testing. Both species can harbor the virus and will give a clearer picture of West Nile prevalence in our area. You can report what you find by calling 877-968-2472 or online here.

Be safe and smart outdoors this summer!

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