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    First On

    Local Anti-Mosquito Expert Wouldn't Be Surprised If CA Had A Thousand Or More West Nile Human Cases This Year; Says We're In Epidemic & "Real Action Hasn't Begun Yet"

    (August 15, 2004) -- An expert with the agency battling mosquitoes in a wide area of L.A. County (including ELB, east of Lakewood Blvd., north of PCH) has said he wouldn't be surprised to see a thousand or more West Nile Virus human cases in California this year.

    Mr. Minoo Madon, Scientific-Technical Services Director for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD), told an August 12 meeting of the agency's governing Board of Trustees:

    "We are in the middle of an epidemic. It just happens that we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg at the moment. The real action hasn't begun yet..."

    In a plain spoken assessment, Mr. Madon added:

    I don't know what's going to happen in September, and I don't know what's going to happen in October, but we're going to see a lot more human cases occur. We're going to see a lot more crows die and we're going to see a lot more mosquito pools [trapped mosquitoes grouped together for collective testing] come out positive [for WNV]...

    ...And I've said this over and over again that no matter how good a job we do, we won't be able to prevent all cases from occurring, there'll be a few more human cases, perhaps a lot more human cases by the end of this season.

    And I wouldn't be surprised if we have a thousand or more human cases by the end of this year in California.

    Mr. Madon noted that the state of Colorado had roughly 3,000 West Nile human cases last year with a smaller population than L.A. County.

    [The Centers for Disease Control's web site says Colorado had 2,947 human cases with 63 deaths in 2003. The U.S. Census "QuickFacts" web site estimates Colorado's 2003 population was just over 4.5 million while L.A. County's 2003 population was nearly 9.9 million; the CA Dept. of Finance says L.A. County topped 10.1 million as of January 1, 2004.]

    California's Dept. of Health Services has separately reported on the spread of the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus (WNV) from southern California's inland areas into the L.A. metro area and central and northern parts of the state. Humans can become infected when bitten by a WNV-infected mosquito; mosquitoes become infected by biting birds (especially crows) previously bitten by an infected mosquito; the birds spread the infection considerable distances. In a period of just a few years, WNV has marched across the country from its original appearance on the east coast.

    West Nile Virus produces no symptoms in roughly 80% of those bitten by infected mosquitoes, but causes flu-like symptoms in about 20%. It can lead to encephalitis (brain swelling) or meningitis in about 1 in 150 people bitten by WNV infected mosquitoes. There is no cure, only supportive therapies which include hospitalization in serious cases.

    As of this article's August 15 posting, there are over 50 confirmed human West Nile cases in L.A. County with five deaths confirmed statewide...two of which (confirmed to posting date) were in L.A. County and one of which was in LB.

    The Greater L.A. County Vector Control District isn't a "County" district; it's a "special district" funded by a property tax assessment. It handles mosquito and vector abatement in roughly half of LB (east of Lakewood Blvd. and north of PCH) plus much of the eastern half of L.A. County (excluding the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys), covering communities along the San Gabriel and L.A. rivers...and the San Fernando valley and the Santa Clarita area.

    LB's Dept. of Health and Human Services handles the central and western half of LB, with LB's northwest corner handled by a Compton mosquito abatement district.

    In a previously issued written release, LB's Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said:

    Since infected mosquitoes spread WNV, local residents can significantly assist assistance in reducing local risk of virus exposure by eliminating standing water on their private property to prevent breeding of mosquitoes. WNV is transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected with WNV when they feed on infected birds. As temperatures rise, mosquito populations are expected to increase. With this increase in the mosquito population, chances for WNV transmission will become higher.

    The DHHS Vector Control Program controls mosquito breeding on a regular basis in public areas. However, the DHHS needs the assistance of local residents to keep mosquito breeding to a minimum on private property. Residents are requested to take the following precautions to protect themselves and control mosquito breeding:

    • Remove pools of standing or stagnant water, which provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Debris piles, buckets, barrels, kidís toys, and tire swings are some common sources of stagnant water. Mosquitoes need water to complete their life cycle, therefore they are most active around stagnant water;
    • Clear gutters and drains of standing water;
    • Change water in birdbaths frequently;
    • Properly maintain clean swimming pools and spas with proper filtration and chlorination levels; green or dirty pools can breed thousands of mosquitoes in a week's time, unnecessarily increasing the population's risk of contracting WNV
    • Limit the watering of lawns and outdoor plants to twice a week to avoid run off to gutters and around sprinklers;
    • Limit your time outdoors when you notice mosquito activity (primarily at dusk and dawn). If you remain outdoors while mosquitoes are biting, wear clothing that provides more coverage of your skin (such as long sleeved shirts and pants);
    • Use mosquito repellents containing...DEET when outdoors and especially between dusk and dawn. The repellent should be sprayed on clothing and exposed skin. Residents should follow instructions on the label. Consult with your childís pediatrician for appropriate concentrations to be used on children under the age of two.
    • Make sure that doors and windows have tight fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.

    Businesses are also urged to check their property weekly and eliminate any standing or stagnant water and to maintain swimming pools to summertime conditions. Green or dirty pools can breed thousands of mosquitoes in a weekís time, unnecessarily increasing the populationís risk of contracting WNV.

    Related coverage: collected West Nile Virus coverage

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