Bad news, everyone: looks like West Nile Virus has, once again, been detected in Orange County. Vector Control officials announced today that infected mosquitoes and birds have been found in Buena Park, Cypress, Huntington Beach, Orange, and Tustin.
“The Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District (OCMVCD) has confirmed the first mosquito sample to test positive for West Nile virus (WNV) in 2019,” states an Aug. 5 OCMVCD news release. “The mosquitoes were collected from the city of Orange at El Camino Real Park on July 30, 2019. The District has also confirmed 9 birds with West Nile virus in the cities of Cypress, Buena Park, Huntington Beach, and Tustin. There are no confirmed cases of human infections at this time in Orange County.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “West Nile virus (WNV) is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States.” Infected Culex mosquitoes (pictured above) spread the disease. While there’s no vaccine or medical treatment for the disease, only about one in five who get infected actually develop symptoms–fever, headaches, and other body aches. But one in about 150 people infected will develop very serious symptoms, which can be fatal.
“Since its introduction in 2003, WNV has infected more than 6,500 people and has caused 292 fatalities statewide, according to the California Department of Public Health,” states the Vector Control news release. “West Nile virus is endemic in California and in Orange County, and presents a risk to public health every year.” (Though the above map includes a positive mosquito sample taken in Garden Grove in January 2019, OC Vector Control Communications Director Lora Young said that while the test for that mosquito took place in 2019, the mosquito itself had been collected in 2018.)
Oh, and in case you were wondering, climate change is indeed expected to make diseases like West Nile Virus far more common. In fact, a climate report released by the U.S. government late last year stated that West Nile Virus cases are expected to double over the next 30 years.
Obviously, wearing mosquito repellent is high on the list of things to do to lessen the chances of getting infected (repellent should contain containing DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus, states Vector Control). But Vector Control also recommends taking the following actions:
- Close all unscreened doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home or space; repair broken or damaged screens
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and opt for lighter-colored clothing
- Dump and drain containers around the home that are filled with water at least once a week
- Clean and scrub bird baths and pet water bowls weekly
- Dump water from potted plant saucers
OC Vector Control will conduct additional mosquito trapping around El Camino Real Park. If you see particularly large numbers of mosquitoes, you’re urged to contact Vector Control by calling 714-971-2421 or 949-654-2421. You can get more information at OCVector.org.
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.