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Sonora, CA — Been bitten yet? Now is the time to protect against mosquitoes and the possible deadly West Nile Virus (WNV).

The Tuolumne County Public Health Department and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are urging all residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites during WNV season that extends through early fall.

“West Nile virus activity throughout the state is increasing, so it is important to take every possible precaution to protect against mosquito bites,” said State Public Health Officer and CDPH Director Dr. Karen Smith.

Currently, health officials advise that the WNV activity is within expected levels and is similar to activity at this time last year where 217 WNV cases were reported in California, including 11 deaths. There have been 6000 cases across the state since the virus was first detected in 2003, resulting in a total of 303 deaths.The risks of disease due to WNV increases as the summer progresses and declines in early fall as the weather cools.

Late spring rains have contributed to standing water, which serves as a breeding source for mosquitoes that can spread WNV, according to health officials. They note that the virus is influenced by factors that including climate, the number and types of birds and mosquitoes in an area and the level of West Nile immunity in birds. For most people, the risk of developing serious illness is low, report health officials, but they add that less than one percent can develop serious neurological illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis. Those most susceptible are individuals 50 years or older and persons with diabetes or hypertension.

The CDPH recommends practicing the “Three Ds” to protect against the virus:

1. DEET – Apply U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 according to label instruction. EPA-registered repellents are recommended for use because they have been Tuolumne County Public Health Department Contact: Michelle Jachetta Public Information Officer 209-533-7427 mjachetta@co.tuolumne.ca.us tested for safety and efficacy in preventing mosquito bites. Insect repellents should not be used on children under two months of age. For more information, visit CDPH’s insect repellent toolkit.

2. DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes that transmit WNV usually bite in the early morning and evening, so it is important to wear proper clothing and repellent if outside during these times. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.

3. DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, by emptying flower pots, old car tires, buckets, and other containers. If you know of a swimming pool that is not being properly maintained, please contact the Tuolumne County Environmental Health Division.

County environmental health officials have been collecting and testing dead birds for the virus. Last year they saw an increase in dead bird activity where positive WNV cases were identified. The public is asked to report dead foul by calling 1-877-WNV-BIRD (968-2473) or click here.

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