West Nile-carrying mosquitoes have been detected in Merced County, the first indication of local virus activity this year, officials at the Mosquito Abatement District said Monday.
Three mosquito samples and one sentinel chicken sample tested positive for the virus. The samples were collected in Merced, Hilmar and Dos Palos.
Allan Inman, manager at the Merced County Mosquito Abatement District, said officials have issued a mosquito warning for those areas, but it is believed that there is more virus activity across the county than what has been detected.
“You look at all these areas, and you see how spread out they are,” Inman said. “It’s probable that (virus activity) is all over Merced.”
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Inman said officials received a heads up from the Fresno Westside Mosquito Abatement District in Firebaugh on Thursday when mosquito samples that tested positive for West Nile were found near Merced County lines. Testing on Friday showed West Nile activity was present in Merced.
Statewide, 11 West Nile cases in people have been reported, including three in Stanislaus County and two in Fresno County.
Inman said that although no human infections in Merced have been reported, people should take precautions. He recommends that people follow the five D’s to protect themselves from mosquito bites:
Dusk and Dawn: Stay indoors during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are biting.
Dress: Wear clothing that will protect the skin from bites.
DEET: Use mosquito repellent containing DEET.
Drain: Empty standing water around the house.
Because mosquitoes breed anywhere there is moisture, Inman urges residents to stay away from bike paths along creeks. “You are at risk if you are walking and using those bicycle paths in Merced,” he said.
In response to the findings of virus activity, the Dos Palos area was sprayed with mosquito control treatment Sunday night. District officials plan on ground spraying the bicycle paths Tuesday night in Merced, and administering aerial treatments as early as Thursday night, if weather permits. Inman explained that according to Environmental Protection Agency regulations, mosquito treatment cannot be sprayed with wind speeds above 10 mph.
Last year, 21 sentinel chickens, eight mosquitoes and 38 birds tested positive for West Nile in Merced County. No cases of infected humans were reported last year. Inman said 2005 and 2012 were the years with the most positive cases. In 2012, 13 human cases were reported.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms. About one in five people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms, and about 1 percent of infected people develop a serious neurological illness.