County health officials are reporting the year's first human case of West Nile Virus out of Newport Beach this week and warning residents to stay aware of the buzz.
According to a report from the Orange County Health Care Agency, a Newport Beach man in his 30s, a Laguna Niguel woman in her 50s and a Lake Forest man in his 80s each tested positive for West Nile Virus in September. This year across Orange County, there have been a total of 45 human cases of WNV confirmed ― more than four times as many cases as all of last year. No deaths have been attributed to the virus so far this year.
"It is ramping up," Deanne Thompson, the agency's spokeswoman, told Patch. "But this year has not been high compared to when it peaked in 2008, and we had 79 total infections."
Recent years have also been fairly low in terms of WNV human cases. Thompson said in 2011 there were 10 cases, followed by one case in 2010 and four cases in 2009. The last WNV fatalities were reported in 2008.
"We've had some very low years," Thompson added.
Along with the human cases, the Orange County Vector Control District reports 109 OC birds have died from WNV this year in cities including Newport Beach, Fountain Valley, Laguna Beach, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, Mission Viejo and San Juan Capistrano.
Jared Dever, district spokesman, says residents should always keep their guard up against WNV because it's a threat year-round.
"Our mild climate does allow mosquitoes that primarily breed in the summer months to continue breeding at a greatly reduced rate during the winter months," Dever explained. "To believe that there is an absence of risk would be a dangerous assumption."
Dever says most people who are infected with WNV do not show symptoms, but those who do get sick typically experience fever, headache, nausea, body aches, mild skin rash or swollen lymph nodes. Elderly people are most susceptible for WNV, and in rare cases, WNV will progress to encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. One in 150 people will need to be hospitalized.
"The time between the mosquito bite and the onset of illness, known as the incubation period, ranges from 3-15 days in humans," Dever said. "There is no specific treatment for infection with WNV."
OCVCD treats all known mosquito breeding sites around the county, and routinely conducts ground and aerial surveillance to identify new sources.
But there are precautions that residents should take against WNV, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
- Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
- Avoid shady and wooded areas during daytime hours.
- Wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
- Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or other EPA approved repellent to exposed skin or clothing. Always following the manufacturer's directions for use.
- Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes out of buildings.
- Empty water from mosquito breeding sites such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.