It’s summer, which means outdoor activities in short pants and shirtsleeves – and, health officials stress, taking precautions against mosquito bites that could transmit the potentially fatal West Nile virus.
Concert-goers in Garfield Park last Sunday got a first-hand look at L.A. County’s stepped-up concerns, as vector-control workers set up a booth to pass out information, increase awareness and offer up free sprays of repellent.
No mosquitoes have tested positive for any mosquito-borne diseases in South Pasadena, according to Levy Sun, public information officer for the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District.
Still, city officials are keeping a close eye on mosquito populations after a Southern California man died after contracting West Nile earlier this month in what is considered to be the first death resulting from the virus this year in the state.
West Nile virus, which primarily affects birds, is transmitted to humans through a mosquito bite. Last year, 11 people statewide died of WNV and 44 the year before, reports said.
The dead man, who resided in Imperial County, died on July 4 and had a history of other health issues, according to county health officials. He was identified by the Desert Sun as Robert Mears, a 74-year-old retired construction worker.
Although only 1 in 5 people who catch West Nile develop any symptoms, around 1 in 150 infected do develop serious illness that can be fatal, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are most likely in people older than 50.
For South Pasadena, San Gabriel Valley Mosquito & Vector Control monitors the city and reported that a trap is being maintained to continually check for any infected mosquitoes.
“We do keep a close eye on where it starts and where it may go,” said Sun. “It seems like a lot of the West Nile virus activity for the most part is originating in the east side of our region.”
Sun recommends that residents take preventative steps to protect themselves from West Nile by applying bug repellant (any containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535) and draining any sources of standing water around homes and properties. Sources can include buckets, old car tires, rain gutters, birdbaths and pet bowls.
Residents are also encouraged to report to vector control officials at www.SGVmosquito.org if they see any private or public areas that have untreated standing water sources for more than one week. Vector control can then follow up with property owners.
Residents can also help by reporting any dead birds they find to westnile.ca.gov. Dead birds can be a sign that West Nile is more prevalent in an area. Five dead birds were found and tested positive for West Nile in Orange County earlier this month, according to reports.
“By knowing that there are birds that are sick and that had died from West Nile, we know that it now is being circulated more widely in our ecosystem here in Southern California,” said Sun.
South Pasadena currently has two primary mosquito populations: Culex and Aedes mosquitoes. Culex, primarily active in the morning and evening, can transmit West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis and Western equine encephalitis. Aedes are aggressive daytime biting mosquitoes and can transmit Zika, Dengue fever, Chikungunya, yellow fever and dog/cat heartworm.
“Bottom line: there’s no need to panic — just take the necessary precautions now so you don’t get sick later,” said Sun.