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West Nile cases have been down in the last couple of years, but there are indications that it is on the rise again and this could be a rough year.
There have been no reported human cases of West Nile in L.A. County this year, but the number of infected birds and mosquitoes has skyrocketed. Los Angeles County Vector Control officials say by this time last year four dead birds and only a small number of mosquito samples tested positive for West Nile virus. So far this year about 40 dead birds and 20 mosquitoes have tested positive.
Human cases of the West Nile virus often go unnoticed. The virus hits the elderly and children the hardest. Symptoms include fever, body aches, nausea, and headaches. In rare cases, it can be fatal.
The West Nile virus is spread to humans and animals by infected mosquitoes. Officials say they are not seeing a problem yet, but August and September are the peak months of the West Nile season.
Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water in ditches, ponds, and other spots where water is left unattended. Los Angeles County Vector Control officials are testing standing water in the Sepulveda Basin and other areas of the county where West Nile virus has been a problem in the past. If they find mosquito larvae, they will treat the water to try and keep the population of the insects low.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is considering implementing a plan to put out more information about the virus and increase surveillance. They are also considering clearing open waterways to prevent mosquito breeding.
Swimming pools are a big concern this year because of all the homes affected by the foreclosure crisis. There has been a 400-500 percent increase in the number of pools with stagnant water.
"The swimming pools are not being maintained so the water is just sitting stagnant, no one is maintaining them or cleaning them or anything like that so once the water sits stagnant it will get green," said Wesley Collins from the L.A. County Vector Control district. "If it's not being chlorinated and filtered, the water gets green in the pools and then perfect breeding ground for the mosquitoes. The adult, female mosquitoes will lay her eggs in the pool."
Property owners can do their part by draining neglected swimming pools, ponds and other sources of standing water. You can protect yourself from the West Nile virus by avoiding outdoor activity at dusk and dawn when the mosquitoes are most active and using repellent-containing DEET.
Residents are asked to report any dead birds or squirrels by calling (877) 968-2473 or submit an online report.