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West Nile Virus Off To Aggressive Start In San Diego County

Chris Conlan, San Diego County's supervising vector ecologist, examines mosquitos through a microscope, June 5, 2015.
Susan Murphy
Chris Conlan, San Diego County's supervising vector ecologist, examines mosquitos through a microscope, June 5, 2015.

West Nile Virus Off To Aggressive Start In San Diego County
So far, 29 dead birds have tested positive for the mosquito-borne disease in San Diego County compared to one or two cases last year at this time.

The mosquito-borne West Nile virus is off to an early and aggressive start in San Diego County.

Since January, 29 dead birds have tested positive for the disease compared to one or two cases last year at this time. Most of the birds have been crows and ravens found in the East County.

"The big concern for us when you see birds early in the season is that you still have peak season still ahead of you," said Chris Conlan, supervising vector ecologist for the county’s Vector Control Program.

"West Nile Virus is a disease that actually transmits much better when the weather’s very warm because the incubation period in the mosquito shortens during the higher temperatures," Conlan said. "It can only potentially get worse going into the summer when it’s going to get hotter."

Conlan is urging people to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites, including wearing repellent when going outside at night and eliminating standing water at their homes.

"Make sure you’re not breeding mosquitos in your own backyard," Conlan said. "If you’re going to try to save water because of the drought, that’s a good thing. But make sure that you do it in a way that you exclude the mosquitos from getting into those containers of water."

Last year, 11 people in the county were diagnosed with the disease and two people died.

Most people infected with West Nile Virus, don't show symptoms. For the 20 percent who do have symptoms, they include headache, fever, and in severe cases, paralysis.

"About four out of five people will get over it without even knowing they ever had it, and one out of five people will typically get some kind of symptoms," Conlan said.

Conlan is urging people to report dead birds and green pools of water by emailing vector@sdcounty.ca.gov or calling (858) 694-2888. The county also has a new “Fight the Bite” app available in the Apple and Google app stores.