Staying safe during mosquito season
Surveillance measures and a local hotline have been introduced by El Dorado County to combat a potential West Nile Virus outbreak on the South Shore.
Beginning Monday, county leaders joined health officials statewide in recognizing the threat of the virus that is carried by mosquitos and birds. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution recognizing Mosquito and Vector Control and West Nile Awareness Week.
West Nile virus is a disease that can be transmitted to humans and animals by mosquitos. It can cause encephalitis and other neurological conditions that can be fatal. Last year West Nile killed 262 people in the United States and sickened thousands more.
The El Dorado County Environmental Management Department operates a mosquito abatement program in South Lake Tahoe and is working with California Department of Health Services on its mosquito-borne virus surveillance and response plan, said Ginger Huber, the county’s environmental management director.
“The department is also in the process of identifying potential mosquito breeding sources on the West Slope where there is no vector control district,” Huber said.
El Dorado County Public Health started human surveillance of the virus last year and has asked local physicians to routinely test all human cases of viral meningitis and encephalitis for West Nile. The hope is twofold, Huber explained: First, the county intends to keep its mosquito control program in full swing through the season with beefed up surveillance, with the health of public health agencies and their staff readily available to target mosquito-prone areas; secondly, public education about prevention is vital to keep the public safe, Huber said.
The first human case of the disease in California was documented in 2002, but no cases have been detected in Northern California. Last year, there were three cases of the disease in humans, all in Southern California. Evidence of the virus has already been detected again this year in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties where several birds tested positive. The first probable human case this year was in Ohio.