Beware! Mosquitoes by the River

Photo by Jim of JimOnLight used under a Creative Commons license

If you're one of the lucky few to snag a ticket to paddle the L.A. River this year or simply like outdoor activities, don't forget the bug spray this season.

Health officials report a dramatic 25 percent jump in West Nile virus cases over just a week. A total of 1,993 cases including 87 deaths have been reported to Center for Disease Control as of September 4. Public health officials from the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD) have also confirmed an additional 26 West Nile virus (WNV) positive mosquito samples collected within its district boundaries, and six dead birds as of August 31st. Infected mosquitoes were found in Granada Hills, Studio City, Silver Lake, Burbank, Chatsworth, Rowland Heights, Cerritos, La Mirada, Pico Rivera, and Atwater Village, adjacent to the Glendale Narrows section of the L.A. River, among others.

West Nile virus is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes (also called "vectors"). It is a seasonal epidemic that flares up in the summer and continues until fall. About 20 percent of those infected will show mild symptoms like fever, body aches, nausea, and vomiting. Less than one percent will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. Infections can be fatal. Unfortunately, there is still no cure, so the best solution is still to get yourself checked by the doctor.

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GLACVCD suggests some ways to keep the bugs away, such as emptying standing water around your home where mosquitoes breed, avoiding outdoor activities during dusk or dawn when mosquitoes are most active, using insect repellents containing containing EPA-registered active ingredients such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Pants and long-sleeved shirts are also good ideas.

Truc Dever, Director of Community Affairs at GLACVCD, does have a silver lining to those of us making a beeline for the nearest bug spray. "The amount of West Nile virus activity we have detected in Los Angeles County so far this year is actually less than last year. Our activity is actually below the five-year average."

Last year, Los Angeles County suffered an epidemic with nearly 300 positive mosquitoes, as opposed to this year's 100 total positives. Human case counts for Los Angeles County can be monitored by visiting www.westnile.ca.gov. You can help monitor the West Nile virus by reporting dead birds to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), at 1-877-WNV BIRD, or at their site.

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