The airplane buzzing around Livingston Thursday evening was a sign that West Nile virus was found in the city for the first time this year.
Allan Inman, manager-entomologist for the Merced County Mosquito Abatement District, said mosquitoes testing positive for the virus have been found near Yamato Colony School.
"We have actually put out a mosquito warning," Inman said. The warning is to residents that the virus has been found in the area.
Inman said there have been positive-test mosquitoes, chickens and birds found in the county, and although the weather may be cooler, the threat of the virus remains high.
"Everything is popping now," he said. "Positive mosquitoes are not a good sign, because mosquitoes are the ones that pass the virus to humans."
Putting a plane up to spray for mosquitoes happens when the district finds out the virus is in the area. The planes have sprayed the city of Merced several times this year, because dead birds testing positive for the virus were found in North Merced.
"We focused on the riparian areas in North Merced, by the creeks and bike paths," Inman said.
Breeding mosquitoes were found on Foster Farms property in Livingston, Inman said, and the chicken producer has cooperated with the abatement district in draining water to get rid of breeding areas.
There have been no human cases in Merced this year, Inman said. Last year, there were four cases in humans in the county, with one fatality. An elderly woman in Fresno has died of the virus this year.
Horses are also susceptible to the virus, and five horses have contracted the disease in Madera County. In two of those horses the disease was fatal. One horse in Stanislaus County has contracted the virus this year.
"There's no excuse for any cases at all in horses, there's a vaccine for them," Inman said.
The district has found 14 positive birds in the county this year, 10 of those in Merced. The other birds were found in Newman, Los Banos and at the county line near Turlock.
The positive chickens were found on Bailey Road, close to Merced city limits, Inman said.
"This time of year is when people have to be very vigilant," Inman said. "People are going to football games and spending more time outside. And it's still warm enough for mosquitoes."
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org