State

County gets an early start in battle against West Nile

Stanislaus County's two mosquito abatement districts got an early start this month on their annual West Nile campaign, which involves finding and eradicating mosquitoes that can carry the endemic virus.

The warmer weather has created conditions for mosquitoes to breed in ponds, ditches and other pockets of standing water, said Lloyd Doug- lass, general manager of the East Side Mosquito Abatement District.

Mosquitoes usually don't appear until the first week of April, he said.

The East Side district loaned its aircraft this week to spray an area near Denair within the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District. Because resources are more limited this year, the two districts have agreed to occasional mutual aid to attack potential West Nile hot spots.

No infected mosquitoes have been detected this year; the virus usually surfaces in June.

Last year, 13 people were stricken with the illness in Stanislaus County, including an 85-year-old Modesto woman who died. The symptoms range in severity from a fever and body aches lasting a few days or weeks to long-term neurological disabilities.

Since the virus was first detected here in 2004, the districts have conducted annual surveillance and control operations, setting traps to identify infected mosquito populations and using airplanes to find breeding sources in neighborhoods.

Jerry Davis, general manager of the Turlock district, said an aerial surveillance was done Thursday and Friday to look for breeding sites in Turlock, Denair, Hickman, Grayson, Patterson and Newman.

Pictures were taken of neglected swimming pools and ornamental ponds.

The district has asked Superior Court Judge William Mayhew for a blanket warrant allowing it to gain access to backyard breeding sites. If mosquito larvae are found, district personnel will plant mosquito fish or treat the pool, Davis said.

The East Side district, responsible for Modesto and other communities north of the Tuolumne River, also inspects residential areas. The districts are required to give 24-hour notice to property owners.

"People need to be aware we are going to be out checking property," Davis said. "If they get a door hanger, call us back right away. That way we don't have to use the abatement warrant."

The abatement districts are waging the battle this year with less funding. No special West Nile funding is coming from the state this year and the state is taking $150,000 of East Side's revenue.

The loss of revenue should not affect services, Douglass said.

"We can keep our services the way they are now," he said. "We are using some of our reserves, but that is why we have reserves."

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.

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