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Drought Figures Into Disturbing West Nile Numbers

Sacramento, CA – State health officials call 2014 a record-breaking year for West Nile virus with 31 deaths serving as its most disturbing statistic.

Last year, 801 Californians tested positive for the virus, which is close to the record of 880 cases in 2005. Orange County, which recorded 236 cases led the state in occurrences.

“In Calaveras County, we didn’t have any West Nile cases reported in 2014,” states Health Officer Dr. Dean Kelaita. He quickly adds, “Tuolumne County didn’t either.”

State health officials point to the drought as a possible contributor to the increase, as it has forced birds and mosquitoes in search of water sources to come into contact more frequently.

Dr. Kelaita explains, “I think what we’re seeing is not that exposure to mosquitoes, in general, by Californians is higher, but in certain pockets it may be higher because, if there’s less water in the statewide areas, it’s going to be concentrated in more areas — and that’s where mosquito activity will increase.”

Typically, the highest risk for the disease is in mid-July through September. With continued dry conditions, state officials fear an early start to the West Nile virus season. Here are the State’s recommendations to help prevent exposure, which it calls the “Three D’s:”

  • DEET- Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535, according to label instructions. Repellents keep the mosquitoes from biting you. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.
  • DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes bite in the early morning and evening, so it is important to wear protective clothing and repellent if you are outside during these times. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.
  • DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including in flower pots, old car tires and buckets. If you know of a swimming pool that is not being properly maintained, please contact your local mosquito and vector control agency.