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So Many West Nile Virus Dead Birds, Gov't Agencies Stop Testing Them In Various Zip Codes Including Some In LB; Phone Reports Still Welcome
Seven Human West Nile Cases ID'd in L.A. County, Some Leading To Encephalitis and Meningitis, All From "Eastern Region" of County
(July 20, 2004) -- As previously predicted by LBReport.com, at some point in the spread of the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus, the number of dead crows and other corvids (jays, ravens, magpies) would reach the point where further testing of dead birds in the area would become pointless.
LBReport.com has learned that the CA Dept. of Health Services, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services have quietly ceased testing birds for the West Nile Virus in certain zip codes -- including several in LB and in surrounding areas -- because the virus is now undeniably present in these areas.
The announcement comes as the L.A. County Dept. of Health Services announced it has now identified 7 human cases of West Nile Virus: 4 with WNV fever and 3 with neuroinvasive diseases (2 with encephalitis and 1 with meningitis). All are males and range from 43 to 71 years of age...and all reside "in the eastern region of the County," the agency said. It added that "one of the newly confirmed cases remains hospitalized recovering from encephalitis."
Meanwhile the CA Dept. of Health encourages residents to continue phoning in reports of dead birds to its number -- 1-877-WNV-BIRD -- to help monitor WNV's presumed intensity. However the agency says testing of birds for WNV in several LB zip codes will likely be suspended for roughly sixty days, then resumed to track the disease's spread.
On July 13 and updated on July 19, the L.A. County Dept. of Health [caveat: an agency separate from the Greater L.A. County Vector Control District] quietly posted on its web site a West Nile Virus Activity Summary that stated in pertinent part:
West Nile Virus is now considered enzootic [constantly present] in Los Angeles County...The [Los Angeles County] Health Department has discontinued dead bird collection in numerous areas across Los Angeles County and Southern California since confirmation of the virus has already been well documented in those locations. In some special circumstances, local Vector Control may still decide to collect and test dead birds. Phoned reports of dead birds are still important and will continue to be received since they provide an on-going indicator of presumed virus activity and help focus containment efforts.
Among the zip code areas listed by the L.A. County Health Dept. are LB 90804, 90807, 90808 and 90815...as well as Lakewood 90712 and 90713, Hawaiian Gardens 90716, Cerritos 90703, Downey 90240, 90241 and 90242.
The July 19 L.A. County Health Dept. WNV Activity Summary can be viewed in pdf form by clicking here.
The extent of WNV's spread, as reflected by dead birds, can be viewed in the two maps below posted on July 19 by the West Nile Virus Surveillance web site. Purple X's show WNV-infected birds identified in the past week. Black circles indicate previous WNV infected dead birds.
[LBReport.com comment: Since not all dead birds are recovered or tested, we presume these numbers are understated.]
We zoom in tighter:
Reached for comment on the cessation of WNV dead bird testing by the LA County Health Dept. in numerous zip codes, the CA Dept. of Health Services similarly told LBReport.com that at this point, after two dead WNV infected birds are identified in a zip code, further testing likely isn't necessary to confirm the obvious.
Stan Husted, Public Health Biologist for the CA Dept. of Health Services, said those zip codes now include LB 90804, 90807 and 90808 with others likely to follow (also 90815, see below). Mr. Husted said he continues to welcome telephone reports to 1-877-WNV-BIRD because they reach him and do provide useful information. However at this point, testing is being suspended in the zip codes above for about 60 days...and then resumed to track the spread of the virus.
Nelson Kerr of LB's Dept. of Health and Human Services tells LBReport.com that dead birds infected with WNV have been identified in LB zip codes including 90808 (4 so far), 90815 (5), 90810 (one so far) and in the past week another one in 90807 (4 so far, the latest in the 4000 block of Pacific Ave.)
Mr. Kerr said LB Animal Control is continuing to collect the dead birds...but after two or more test positive for WNV from a zip code, others may not be tested. He added that the practice had not yet been reduced to a formal policy but was being followed for the time being as a practical matter.
Meanwhile, of greater significance than the dead birds, another group of pooled mosquitoes from ELB has tested positive for WNV. WNV-infected mosquitoes can transmit the disease to humans...and these WNV-infected mosquitoes were trapped in the El Dorado Park area not far from Carson St.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, El Dorado Park and nearby Heartwell Park have both previously been posted with WNV warning signs by the Greater L.A. County Vector Control District. So have Lakewood Golf Course and nearby Bolivar Park.
As also reported last week by LBReport.com, LB's Acting Public Health Officer Dr. Helene Calvet advised LB residents to take protective measures while attending this summer's dusk-time outdoor Muni Band concerts due to the spreading mosquito-borne West Nile Virus (WNV).
"[W]hen you're going to those events at the parks at nighttime you need to protective yourself because you can get bitten by one of these [WNV-infected] mosquitoes," Dr. Calvet told the July 13 meeting of the City Council.
Dr. Calvet said, "So far no humans in Long Beach have shown evidence of [WNV] disease, but...it's just a matter of time if people do not protect themselves."
The mosquito-borne West Nile Virus produces no symptoms in most people, but generates flu like symptoms for about 1 in 5. Serious neurological illnesses (including encephalitis and meningitis) require hospitalization for about 1 in 150 bitten by a WNV-infected mosquito, occasionally leading to death.
"Is West Nile Virus infection serious? If it wasn't serious, I wouldn't be here talking to you tonight," Dr. Calvet said. She urged citizens to attend to items on their private property "that may collect water, such as rain gutters, cans in the backyard, discarded tires...One thing to look out for are your planters. Over-watering and having that water collect in the bottom of your planters can be a great place for mosquitoes to breed."
Regarding standing water on City Hall maintained property such as street gutters (an issue which LBReport.com has previously documented in photographs) LB City Engineer Mark Christoffels told the Council that staff is now aware of close to 2,500 locations citywide with damaged curbs and gutters that are resulting in standing water. He said these would cost close to $6 million to repair...and when City Hall now receives standing water complaints from residents, "we send them a letter indicating that we've identified it and we are, when funding becomes available, going to fix these locations." He added that the letter includes contact phone numbers...and a copy of the letter also goes to the LB Dept. of Health "so it can follow up in terms of having vector control spray the location to make sure that the ponded water doesn't result in mosquitoes."
Greater L.A. County Vector Control District General Manager Jack Hazelrigg said his agency, which services much of ELB (east of Lakewood Blvd., north of PCH), "routinely sprays gutter water, any standing water, on about a seven to ten day basis, so there's no need for the residents to call our district and report standing water."
He added that his agency has augmented its underground storm drain program "and we've spent a lot of time treating the underground storm drains on a regular basis. We've learned that the major mosquito vector in the Los Angeles basin [the southern house mosquito, most ubiquitous in County area, also found in backyards] [is] the one that spends a lot of time in the underground storm drains..."
As first reported in June by LBReport.com, Dr. William Reisen, Research Entomologist and Director in Residence, Mosquito & Arbovirus Ecology, Davis Arbovirus Research Unit told the June 9 meeting of the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District's Board of Trustees, "We're in the middle of the largest mosquito-borne virus outbreak in the history of North America, and the biggest West Nile [Virus] outbreak ever documented in the world."
Dr. Reisen added, "It's truly a test of organized mosquito control and public health as to whether they can rally to protect the residents of Los Angeles or the residents of California in general."
Recent LBReport.com coverage:
Residents Urged To Take Protective Measures At Evening Muni Band Concerts Due To West Nile Virus; Other Sobering Info At Council Briefing on WNV
LB Dead Crow Toll Mounts, Dead Birds Increasingly Prevalent As West Nile Virus Spreads
West Nile Virus Infected Mosquitoes Found In Vicinity of Alamitos Bay Marina & PCH/Westminster area; Numerous Infected Dead Crows From Zips 90808 and 90815, Also Lakewood Zip 90713
LBUSD Sends Updated West Nile Virus Prevention Tips To Principals for Distribution to Staff & Parents; We Post Text
Kell Agendizes Report On City's West Nile Virus Efforts
West Nile Virus Watch:
LB Dept. Of Health Received Multiple ELB Resident Reports Re Standing Water In Untended Swimming Pool; Didn't Return Phone Calls; Didn't Refer Reports To County Vector Control And Didn't Ensure Follow Up
ELB Neighbors Now Say They've Got Mosquitoes En Masse, Can't Be Outside At Dusk And Just Found A Dying Crow
Incident Follows Other Reports of Standing Water in ELB Streets, Gutters
First LB West Nile Virus Infected Mosquitoes Found Vicinity Heartwell Park
West Nile Virus Warning Signs To Be Posted in El Dorado, Heartwell Parks
Two New West Nile Virus Dead Crows From LB (90807 & 90804) + Three From Lakewood (90712 and 90713) + Two From Hawaiian Gardens (90716)
LBUSD Administrators Alerted to West Nile Virus Prevention Tips
Dead Crows, Possibly West Nile Virus Infected, Increasingly Visible in Cerritos
West Nile Virus Warning Signs Posted @ Lakewood Golf Course & Bolivar Park in Lakewood
Ground Zero For West Nile Virus: See Maps Showing WNV Totals & Recent WNV-Infected Dead Birds
It's Here: Dead Crow w/ West Nile Virus ID'd in LB; Residents Again Urged to Take Precautions
ELB Email to LBReport.com Cites Add'l Standing Water
More WNV Infected Crows in Cerritos...And First CA 04 Human Case in San B'dino County
West Nile Virus Expert Says We're In Midst Of Largest Mosquito-Borne Virus Outbreak in North American History & Biggest West Nile Virus Outbreak Ever Documented in the World
Editorial: Biting Back: Our Suggestions Re WNV in LB
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