San Diego County environmental health officials immediately reminded the public to protect themselves from mosquitoes that can transmit the disease, and to remember the county’s “Prevent, Protect, Report” motto.
“Everyone should remember to eliminate standing water inside and outside homes where mosquitoes could breed; wear clothing that covers arms and legs or use repellent if you’re outside dusk to dawn; and report dead birds and mosquito breeding areas,” said Elizabeth Pozzebon, director of the County Department of Environmental Health.
San Diego County has largely escaped the wrath of West Nile virus since it first arrived here in 2003. But last year 11 San Diego County residents were diagnosed with the disease and two local residents died, becoming just the second and third San Diegans to die from the virus.
Statewide, 798 people were diagnosed with West Nile virus in 2014 and 29 people died — the highest number of deaths from the disease in California in a decade. Across the country, 2,122 people were diagnosed with West Nile virus in 2014 and 85 people died.
West Nile virus is a disease that mainly affects birds, but can be transmitted to people, horses and other animals by mosquitoes that first feed on infected birds. Not all mosquitoes carry West Nile virus and most people never get sick even if they are exposed to it. Roughly 80 percent of people exposed never develop any symptoms. And nearly all of the other 20 percent only develop flu-like symptoms. But in rare cases, some people can become seriously ill and can die.
County officials urged people to remember to “Prevent, Protect, Report.”
-Prevent mosquito breeding: Dump out or remove any item inside or outside of homes that can hold water, such as plant saucers, rain gutters, buckets, garbage cans, toys, old tires, and wheelbarrows. Mosquito fish, available for free, may be used to control mosquito breeding in backyard water sources such as unused swimming pools, ponds, fountains and horse troughs.
-Protect yourself from mosquito bites: Protect yourself from West Nile virus by staying inside when mosquitoes are most active, at dusk and dawn. Wear long sleeves and pants or use repellent when outdoors. Use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. Make sure screens on windows and doors are in good condition and secured to keep insects out.
-Report dead birds and green swimming pools: Report dead crows, ravens, jays, hawks and owls, and green swimming pools to the Vector Control Program at (858) 694-2888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
County officials said the public can keep up with West Nile virus activity and anonymously report dead birds and green swimming pools by downloading the county’s “Fight the Bite” mobile app.