Across the country, 2012 is proving to be the worst year for West Nile Virus infections since the virus was first detected in the U.S. in 1999. According to the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD), West Nile activity in the local region is also increasing.
Eagle Rock, in Northeast Los Angeles, is one of the latest communities where the virus has been detected, according to the Vector Control District’s Community Affairs Director, Truc Dever.
Dever told EGP that a mosquito sample collected Aug. 28 from the 1600 block of Campus Drive tested positive for the virus. One, or all 31 of the mosquitoes could have been positive, explained Dever, who added that for the agency’s reporting purposes if just one mosquito comes back positive, the area is considered infected.
Humans and animals get the virus through the bite of an infected mosquito. One out of five people will experience flu like symptoms. In extreme cases, the virus can cause a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die, according to health officials.
The region has been experiencing a long stretch of very hot and humid weather, which according to Dever can have a “direct impact on the amount of West Nile virus activity we see.”
“The hot weather has led to an increase in mosquito abundance and caused the virus to replicate at a faster rate,” Dever said in a written statement. “This has resulted in a higher incidence of West Nile virus positive mosquito samples, dead birds, and human cases.”
As of last week, however, no dead birds with the virus had been reported in the Eagle Rock area.
District vector ecologists last week confirmed that mosquito samples collected in Eagle Rock and 30 other areas within the district had tested positive for West Nile. The cities and communities of Glendale, Harbor City, Hawaiian Gardens, Rosewood, Sun Valley, and Willowbrook registered virus activity for the first time. Nine dead birds found in the district also tested positive for West Nile.
When West Nile is found in an area, county vector control posts signs, in English and Spanish, in public areas such as parks, advising the public to take precautions, Dever told EGP.
“The signs are posted in a half mile to one mile area [from the infected site]. Mosquitoes can fly up to one mile,” she said.
The signs list precautions that can be taken to avoid infection, and contact information for where someone can get more information, Dever said.
The county will continue to track infected areas as part of its “regular track route,” she said. “We will continue to track on a schedule throughout the season” to see whether the virus is still active in the area.
So far this year, the county has identified 138 West Nile Virus-positive mosquito samples, 31 positive dead birds, and three positive chickens within its jurisdiction.
Last week, 10 new human cases of West Nile Virus were reported in LA County, bringing to 18 the total number of human cases reported here.
Dever said the county has traps spread across the 1,300 square-mile district, but they cannot test every area.
“Just because we haven’t found West Nile in an area doesn’t meant it’s not there,” she said.
“It’s safe to assume that West Nile is everywhere, and everyone should take precautions.”