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Valley bird tests positive for West Nile

A crow found in Herald, in southeast Sacramento County, has tested positive for West Nile virus -- the first confirmation of the season in the region.

Lloyd Douglass, general manager of the East Side Mosquito Abatement District, said residents should limit exposure to mosquitoes by eliminating standing water and wearing insect repellent and long sleeves. Mosquitoes pass the disease.

"It is here, and it is going to stay here," Douglass said. "And we need to protect ourselves by wearing long sleeves, trying to limit our exposure to mosquitoes and by reporting mosquitoes when you notice them in your area."

He urged people to report pools at vacant houses and other cases of standing water and mosquitoes. Those who are infected sometimes develop an array of symptoms of which fever and headache are the most common, and some even die, although most experience no symptoms at all.

Having one bird with West Nile this time of year is not unusual. Douglass said birds have come up positive around the first of the year -- some were probably sick during the prior season -- but what would be unusual would be to have a number of birds turn up so early.

In addition to the crow in Herald, two test chickens in Los Angeles County and seven birds in San Diego County tested positive in January, said Lea Brooks, spokeswoman for the California Department of Public Health.

Sacramento and Stanislaus County had similar numbers of human infections last year: Sacramento 26, and Stanislaus 24, according to the state department of public health.

San Joaquin County had 10 cases, Merced County had four, and Tuolumne County didn't have any.

The disease picks up when mosquitoes are most active in spring and summer and falls off after the first deep freeze.

Last year, the first recorded victim in the Northern San Joaquin Valley was a 75-year-old Stanislaus County woman who became sick June 22. The last was a 60-year-old Stanislaus County man who became ill Oct. 19. One victim died, an 86-year-old man from San Joaquin County.

California recorded its first case of the virus in 2002.

For more information, see www.westnile.ca.gov/.

To report a dead bird, call (877) 968-2473. To report mosquitoes call the Merced Mosquito Abatement District, 722-1527.

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