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    Uh-Oh: Dangerous, Potentially Deadly West Nile Virus Spread By Mosquitoes Now Found in L.A. County: Dead Bird In San Gabriel Valley

    (Sept. 16, 2003) -- The dangerous and potentially deadly West Nile Virus (WNV) has been identified in an infected bird in Los Angeles County, a short drive up the 605 freeway from Long Beach.

    The L.A. County Dept. of Health and Human Services reports a dead crow infected with WNV has been found in the San Gabriel Valley, the first time the virus spread by mosquitos has been found in an animal or mosquito population in L.A. County.

    Imperial and Riverside Counties have previously found WNV in mosquitos...although there have been no locally-acquired human cases of the virus reported in CA in 2003.

    WNV killed nearly 300 people nationally in 2002 and has caused over 714 human cases this year with 14 deaths.

    "This reinforces the need for residents to take preventive measures to reduce their possible exposure to the virus," said Jonathan Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., L.A. County's Director of Public Health and the County's Health Officer.

    L.A. County's Health Dept. web site says, "In most cases people who are infected never become sick or have only very mild symptoms for a few days. The virus can in rare cases cause encephalitis and death. The elderly are most at risk for severe cases of the disease. There is no specific treatment for the West Nile Virus. In a serious case, an individual may be hospitalized to ensure good supportive care. Most people who are infected with WNV have no symptoms. Of those that become ill, symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, body aches and a mild skin rash. In a few cases, the disease will progress to encephalitis."

    L.A. County's Health Dept. site indicates one County resident tested positive for WNV last year...and public health officials concluded the individual acquired WNV infection within L.A. County. The County has not had a case of WNV in 2003.

    In August 2003, LB's Health Dept. advised (1) taking mosquito prevention measures now and (2) reporting dead birds to authorities per instructions below. [Caveat: Don't attempt to catch or handle live or dead wild birds.] In the public interest, we repost the pertinent part of an August 22 LB Dept. of Health and Human Services release below.]

    We have also added hyperlinks in the release text to access updated information from state, federal and LB authorities...and we urge readers to click on the links for the most up to date information.

    L.A. County maintains a West Nile Virus telephone hotline at: 1-800-975-4448.

    [begin pertinent portion of Aug. 22 City of LB Dept. of Health release text]

    Recommendations for keeping mosquitoes under control on resident's personal property are as follows:

    • Dispose of anything that can hold standing water such as tin cans, discarded tires and plastic containers;
    • Drain or fill low spots in the ground and drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers to prevent moisture from collecting;
    • Change water in bird baths, decorative fountains and pet feeding bowls often;
    • Clean clogged roof gutters regularly;
    • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools regularly.

    In addition, residents should avoid mosquito-infested areas at dawn or dusk, wear long sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors, ensure all operable windows are screened, and use insect repellent products with between 10%-50% DEET for adults and between 10%-30% for children. Typically, higher concentrations provide longer protection. Residents should follow instructions on the label.

    The [LB] Health Department has enhanced its Vector Control Program, which routinely provides mosquito surveillance and control in public areas of the City. This program plays an important part in limiting the occurrence of mosquito borne disease, however, the Health Department urges residents to remove standing water from private property to eliminate mosquito-breeding sources and prevent disease.

    Since WNV [West Nile Virus] affects certain types of birds (crows, jays, magpies, sparrows, finishes [sic, we assume means "finches"] and ravens), the Health Department participates in a dead bird surveillance program and collects the dead birds to determine if they were infected with any viruses. Portions of the City are also served by the Greater Los Angeles Vector Control District and the Compton Creek Vector Control District.

    The public can become part of the monitoring effort for WNV by reporting any birds listed above that may have been dead for less than 48 hours and show no sign of decomposition or maggot infestation to a special California Department of Health Services toll-free line: 877-WNV-BIRD. The tissue of the dead birds is tested for the presence of WNV. The virus was most often identified in dead births [sic, we assume means "birds"], especially crows, in other regions of the country. While there is no evidence that people can get the virus from handling live or dead infected birds, individuals should not attempt to catch or handle them.

    If you have any questions regarding mosquito control measures in the city of Long Beach, please feel free to contact the DHHS [Dept. of Health & Human Services] Environmental Health Program at (562) 570-4132 or go to the DHHS web site at Further information may be obtained at the State of California Department of Health Services web page at, or at the Federal Centers for Disease Control at

    L.A. County also has a "dead bird hotline" for residents to call when they find a recently dead bird: 1-877-747-2243. (Don't touch the bird yourself!) The County Dept. of Health also has information on its web site at

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