The Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency announces that five human cases of West Nile Virus have been reported in Tulare County. Two cases are confirmed to have contracted West Nile Virus and three cases are probable. Public health officials urge residents to take precautions against mosquito bites, as mosquito samples positive for West Nile Virus have been detected in multiple locations within the county. In addition, samples indicate that St. Louis Encephalitis Virus (SLEV) may also be present, posing a risk to the public.
“Due to this increased activity and these reported cases, we strongly encourage residents to use safeguards to reduce their risk of contracting both West Nile Virus and SLEV through mosquito bites,” stated Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Haught.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, and there is no vaccine or medication to treat the virus. Most people infected with West Nile will have no symptoms; however, about 1 in 5 people will develop a fever with other symptoms from 2 to 14 days after being infected. Severe cases of West Nile Virus can affect the central nervous system, resulting in meningitis and/or encephalitis, and can result in death or long-term disability.
The St. Louis Encephalitis Virus (SLEV) is in the same virus family as West Nile Virus. Both viruses are transmitted to humans when bitten by an infected mosquito. Most people infected with SLEV will have few to no symptoms. The most common symptoms are mild, flu-like symptoms, including fever and headache, from 5 to 15 days after being infected. Severe cases of SLEV can also affect the central nervous system, resulting in meningitis and/or encephalitis, and can result in death or long-term disability.
Residents are urged to increase their awareness of potential breeding grounds around their properties. Be on the lookout for homes that are unoccupied or in foreclosure, since many have swimming pools or backyard ponds that are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. It is recommended that residents take the following precautions to avoid being bitten, thereby reducing their risk for exposure to both West Nile Virus and SLEV:
- Use EPA-registered insect repellent such as DEET. Always follow label instructions carefully.
- Dress in long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk or in areas where mosquitoes are active.
- Drain standing water that may produce mosquitoes.
- Repair or replace door and window screens that have tears or holes.
Contact your local mosquito abatement district if you see areas of standing water that may be a breeding area for mosquitoes. Tulare County has three mosquito abatement districts providing abatement services to residents:
- Delta Vector Control (Mosquito Abatement District) – Covering the northern portion of Tulare County. Contact the Visalia Office at (559) 732-8606 or visit online at: http://www.deltavcd.com/.
- Tulare Mosquito Abatement District – Covering the western portion of Tulare County. Contact the Tulare Office at (559) 686-6628 or visit online at: https://www.tularemosquito.com/.
- Delano Mosquito Abatement District – Covering the southern portion of Tulare County. Contact the Delano Office at (661) 725-3114 or visit online at: https://delanomosquito.com/.
Horses are also particularly susceptible to infection with West Nile Virus, but there is a vaccine for horses to prevent these diseases, and horse owners should have their horses vaccinated annually and keep vaccinations up to date as a preventive measure. For more information, visit the California West Nile website at http://westnile.ca.gov/.