Health & Fitness

52-year-old woman is first West Nile case in Stanislaus County this year

Adult Culex tarsalis mosquitoes, carriers of the West Nile virus, move around in a specimen container at the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District office in Turlock, Calif., on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.
Adult Culex tarsalis mosquitoes, carriers of the West Nile virus, move around in a specimen container at the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District office in Turlock, Calif., on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. aalfaro@modbee.com

Stanislaus County health officials have reported the first local case of West Nile illness this year.

Officials said a 52-year-old Modesto woman tested positive for the virus. Health Services Agency spokesman Jim Ferrera said the woman was not hospitalized. The woman’s name was not released.

People contract the potentially deadly West Nile virus when they are bitten by an infected mosquito. About 70 to 80 percent of those infected have no symptoms, but the virus can cause a fever for weeks, severe neurological disease or even death. As of Thursday, state health officials have confirmed 10 cases of West Nile in California.

The East Side and Turlock mosquito abatement districts are scouring the county for mosquito breeding sources and plan to increase spraying. East Side General Manager Lloyd Douglass said the infected mosquito counts are high. The counts became elevated with the hot spell earlier in the summer, he said.

Spraying is planned this weekend in western Stanislaus County and in the area between Ladd Road and Kiernan Avenue, perhaps from Stoddard Road to Tully Road, Douglass said.

To help track the location of infected mosquitoes, Douglass asked residents to report dead birds such as crows, magpies or jays to a state hotline. The abatement district responsible for Modesto and other communities north of the Tuolumne River has not received many dead-bird reports this summer.

Another source of breeding mosquitoes are swimming pools that are not maintained.

Residents can take precautions to avoid mosquito bites by eliminating standing water around their home, staying indoors near dawn and dusk and using insect repellent.

Stanislaus County also has seen two cases of Zika infection this year, with both individuals contracting the virus while traveling outside the United States.

In June, the Health Services Agency reported that a 19-year-old man tested positive for Zika. That was followed by a 59-year-old man who tested positive July 27. The symptoms include fever, rash, headache, joint pain and conjunctivitis.

Last week, the state Department of Public Health said two babies had been born in California with the Zika-related birth defect called microcephaly. An infant born with the condition may have a smaller-than-normal head.

One of the two infants with Zika was born in Alameda County. Two mosquito species that can spread Zika have been found in several counties in California but not in the Northern San Joaquin.

State health officials have confirmed 134 travel-associated Zika infections in California. There have been no cases acquired inside the state.

In the effort to combat the West Nile virus, Stanislaus County residents north of the Tuolumne River may report mosquito problems by calling 209-522-4098; or call 209-634-1234 to report problems in other areas of the county. The state’s dead bird hotline is 877-968-2473.

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