Bay Area prepares for West NileBy Staff
Bay Area counties are preparing for the spread of West Nile virus with testing and preventative measures.
Four Bay Area counties -- Marin, Solano, Sonoma and Alameda -- reported the first confirmed cases of the virus this week. Santa Clara confirmed the first case of the virus on July 21 and Contra Costa confirmed its first case last Friday.
In Napa County, located between two counties that reported the first case of the virus this week, public health officials say they are trying to insure that human infection is prevented and that the virus is detected once it arrives.
"Preventing the virus from coming into this county or any county is impossible," said entomologist Ann Donahue of the Napa County Mosquito Abatement District.
Though West Nile virus was not expected in Napa County until next year, the abatement district has doubled its staff this year, adding three employees to spray for mosquitoes, and hired Donahue to track the disease.
The county also increased the number of sentinel chicken flocks, to detect the virus around the county, from two to six, said Donahue.
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals through mosquito bites; mosquitoes pick up the virus when they feed on infected birds.
Napa County also is participating in the dead-bird surveillance run by the state. Donahue says the county has been getting more calls than ever about dead birds and has submitted three birds this week to University of California, Davis for testing.
The county also has a public education program involving presentations in local schools and to community groups, and is running an advertisement in a local newspaper on how residents can reduce the number of mosquitoes.
Santa Cruz County also is reaching out to the public to help stop the spread of the virus.
The county started preparing for the virus last year, treating its arrival as inevitable. Santa Cruz officials have been especially attentive since the discovery of the virus in neighboring Santa Clara County.
The county sent advisories to health care providers and long-term care providers, hoping to reach the population most susceptible to the disease. People over age 50 are most likely to suffer symptoms, and people over age 75 are most likely to suffer severe consequences, said Laurie Lang, spokeswoman for All Hazards Public Health Authority in Santa Cruz County.
The county also took out advertisements in movie theaters and newspapers explaining facts about the virus and asks public to report dead birds for testing, said Lang, who suspects the virus has already made it to the county but hasn't been detected.
Lang said the state has done a good job of keeping her department aware of what is going on in other counties, pointing out that when a bird in Santa Clara County tested positive for the virus, Santa Cruz officials were able to send out an advisory to their distribution list immediately.
Chindi Peavey of the San Mateo County Mosquito Abatement District also believes that the virus has made it to her county and just hasn't been detected yet.
Peavey, a vector ecologist, said the county has taken many preventative measures to stop the spread of the virus. Workers are treating storm drains, setting traps to monitor and test mosquito populations and the county is participating in the bird testing program, encouraging residents to call the state's bird hotline if they find dead birds.
The county also has been involved in outreach for the past two years, going to local community centers and retirement homes to talk about the virus.
The counties are encouraging residents to call the state's bird hotline to report dead birds and to learn more information about West Nile virus in their area. The number is (877) WNV-BIRD.
Copyright ©2004 San Mateo Daily Journal. Published 08/06/2004.