For Immediate Release:
September 30, 2003
LOS ANGELES –The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) and vector control districts have found additional evidence of West Nile Virus (WNV) in birds in Los Angeles County. State health department tests confirmed WNV in 5 dead crows found in the San Gabriel Valley area. Earlier this month the first dead bird provided evidence that WNV had arrived in Los Angeles County. Imperial County reported the first evidence of the virus in mosquitoes in August. Riverside County has reported evidence of the virus in mosquitoes and birds. There have NOT been any locally acquired human cases of the virus in California to date.
“We are not surprised by these findings nor would we be surprised if more WNV is confirmed in birds or mosquitoes in the County,” said Jonathan Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and County Health Officer. “This should serve as a reminder to residents to take preventive measures to reduce their possible exposure to the virus and continue reporting of recently dead birds.”
Last year, the county recorded its first case of WNV – and the state’s only case – without finding evidence in animal or mosquito populations despite an extensive surveillance system. “If a locally-acquired case of West Nile virus were to be confirmed, or a a large number of birds or mosquitoes with West Nile virus were found in a new area, we would alert the public. However, additional bird deaths in an area previously found to have the the virus is considered routine”, said Dr. Fielding.
“Emergency room physicians throughout the county were have been notified to consider West Nile virus as a diagnosis for appropriate symptoms,” said Rachel Civen, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the ACDC Program’s Vector- borne Disease Unit. “We also reminded them of the risk factors and preventive measures to review with their patients.”
Exposure to West Nile Virus WNV is spread to humans from the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito is infected by biting a bird that carries the virus. The virus is NOT spread by person- to-person contact or directly from birds to humans.
Fewer than one out of 150 people who are bitten by an infected mosquito get severely ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In most cases people who are infected never become sick or have only very mild symptoms for a few days. The virus can in rare cases cause encephalitis and death. The elderly are most at risk for severe cases of the disease. There is no specific treatment for WNV. In a serious case, an individual may be hospitalized to ensure good supportive care.
Dead bird hotline DHS has a hotline for residents to call when they find a recently dead bird. The public is encouraged to call: 1- 877-747-2243. Tests on tissue samples can determine if the cause of death was WNV. More information is available on the DHS website at www.ladhs.org.
“It’s vitally important for people to call us to report dead birds. The identifcation of WNV will help us target prevention strategies in those areas.”
Preventive Measures To reduce exposure to the virus, the health officials suggest residents follow the precautions recommended for all mosquito-borne diseases: • Avoid mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk. • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors. • Use insect repellent products with no more than 35 % DEET for adults and less than 10% for children. • Ensure your windows have screens that do not have holes. • Do not allow water to stagnate in old tires, flowerpots, trash, swimming pools, birdbaths, pet bowls, etc. • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools; drain water from pool covers. • Stock garden ponds with goldfish or mosquito fish. They eat the mosquito eggs and larvae. • Empty and wash birdbaths and wading pools weekly.
Where to call with questions about mosquitoes Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (562) 944-9656 Los Angeles County West Vector Control District (310) 915- 7370 San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District (626) 814-9466 Antelope Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District (661) 942-2917 Compton Creek Mosquito Abatement District (310) 639-7375 Pasadena Health Department (626) 744-6004 City of Long Beach Health Department (562) 570-4132
The county health department has established a toll-free hotline that will provide callers with updated information on West Nile Virus within the county. The hotline is: 1- 800-975-4448.
Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health and comprises more than 3,800 employees with an annual budget exceeding $600 million.