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    First On

    Major Rivers, Flood Control Channels in L.A. County Appear Associated With West Nile Virus Transmission, Agency Reports

    (August 17, 2004) -- Staff of the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD), the agency now fighting an unprecedented local battle against mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus, says data preliminarily indicate that virus transmission appears associated with major rivers and improved flood control channels in L.A. County.

    Jack Hazelrigg, Ph.D., Manager of the agency (which handles mosquito abatement in about half of LB, east of Lakewood Blvd. and north of PCH) told its governing Board of Trustees that if government bodies in charge of the rivers and flood control channels fail to include funding for mosquito abatement in their river maintenance and restoration projects, these areas will become mosquito problems.

    In a report delivered to an August 12 meeting of the agency's governing Board of Trustees, GLACVCD staff stated in part:

    "In Los Angeles County, the dead bird and mosquito collections preliminarily indicate a pattern of West Nile Virus transmission associated with the improved flood control and major rivers found within the County."

    In a colloquy with Dr. Hazelrigg, GLACVCD Trustee Dexter MacBride (Diamond Bar's representative on the 35 member governing Board) remarked, "I imagine what you're saying is the improvement of any of our riverways has to have associated with it a budget for vector control."

    Dr. Hazellrigg replied:

    It's indicating that early on, when we began seeing a trend develop with respect to positive mosquito pools [trapped mosquitoes "pooled" for collective testing] and positive dead birds, that they were associated with the riparian areas, that is,t the riverways and the low lying drainage associated with these riverways, the major riverways, within the district. It still seems to indicate that that is the case.

    And yes, it would be nice if the infrastructures being considered either restored, repaired or in some respects as is being considered by the [San Gabriel] Rivers and Mountains Conservancy Group to be put back into an original state, it would be very wise for them to consider providing maintenance fees for these developments in the future, because without them, they will eventually become mosquito problems.

    Dr. Hazelrigg said that the San Gabriel River Conservancy had discussed plans for a 3.5 acre wetlands in the Whittier Narrows area "and boy if they do that wrong, and it's not managed right, it's going to be a nightmare," but added "I think perhaps now they might get the idea."

    GLACVCD Trustee MacBride commented, "I think that sentence is worth a million dollars to society in general, the idea that you have to do more than just clean up a river and then everybody enjoy it and nothing will happen."

    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.

    The Greater L.A. County Vector Control District isn't a "County" district; it's a "special district" funded by a property tax assessment. In addition a large chunk of ELB, GLACVCD handles mosquito and vector abatement for 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.

    Related coverage: collected West Nile Virus coverage

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