By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
West Nile Virus turns up locally
Dead bird tests for WNV in Modesto
Mosquitos carry West Nile Virus and experts say keep control of any sitting water where they can breed. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

West Nile Virus has shown up in Stanislaus County for the first time this year.

The East Side Mosquito Abatement District said one dead bird tested positive for WNV in Modesto.

As of May 15, WNV has been detected in 10 counties in the state with activity confirmed in 18 dead birds and 17 mosquito samples. No humans and no horses have tested positive as of today in California this year.

Health officials said the reporting and testing of dead birds is an important step in preventing WNV. A confirmed case of the virus in dead birds or mosquito samples helps to identify areas that need treatment to reduce mosquito activity. To report a dead bird, call the state hotline at 1 (877) WNV-BIRD or report it online at Birds of particular interest are crows, ravens, magpies, jays and hawks and eagles.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends that individuals prevent exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile virus by practicing the "Three Ds:"

1. DEET - Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 according to label instructions. Repellents keep the mosquitoes from biting you. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.

2. DAWN AND DUSK - Mosquitoes 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 with tears or holes.

3. DRAIN - Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flower pots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls. If you know of a swimming pool that is not being properly maintained, please contact your local mosquito and vector control agency.

The East Side and Turlock Mosquito Abatement Districts are treating mosquito habitats using ground and aerial spray equipment and are doing aerial surveillance photography for neglected swimming pools.

The Districts provide mosquito fish, free of charge, to put in ornamental ponds and other backyard locations. To report mosquito-breeding problem areas, residents should contact one of the two mosquito abatement districts that serve the county. For areas north of the Tuolumne River, residents should call the Eastside Mosquito Abatement District at 522-4098 ( all others should contact the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District at 634-1234 (

The area's mosquito abatement districts are already busy at work in trying to tamp down the mosquito population in the wake of a year that saw the largest number of West Nile Virus cases in state history.

California had the second-highest number of human cases of West Nile virus in 2014 since the virus first invaded California in 2003. In 2014, California recorded 801 cases of the potentially fatal disease. In 2005, the California Public Health Department detected 880 cases of West Nile Virus.

Not only was the activity level high, but the number of serious cases and fatalities set new records, according to the CDPH. In 2014 there were a record number of deaths from West Nile Virus, with 31 fatalities, and 561 cases of the West Nile neuroinvasive disease, which is the more serious neurological form of the disease often resulting in encephalitis or meningitis.

Within Stanislaus County there were two fatalities and 38 cases of the neuroinvasive form, the Stanislaus Health Services Agency reported.

The state also reported finding a larger portion of the mosquito and bird populations infected with the West Nile Virus, a potential symptom of the ongoing drought.

"As birds and mosquitoes sought water, they came into closer contact and amplified the virus, particularly in urban areas. The lack of water could have caused some sources of water to stagnate, making the water sources more attractive for mosquitoes to lay eggs," said CDPH Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.