This week was designated West Nile Virus and Mosquito Control Awareness week in California by the state Legislature to alert people to the threat that grows with hotter days.
The Turlock Mosquito Abatement District — the local entity that patrols and sprays for mosquitoes — has begun surveillance and control operations for the blood-sucking insects.
David Heft, general manager of the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District, said his 13 staff members are doing all they can, but the community’s help is needed to reduce the mosquito population.
“(We) are concerned about controlling mosquitoes from backyard sources,” he said, “but we also ask that our citizens get into the habit of using insect repellents on a regular basis when they are outdoors to prevent mosquito bites.”
Property owners can eliminate standing pools of water that serve as mosquito breeding grounds, Heft said. The kind of mosquitoes that typically propagate in backyards and stagnant water are of the same species responsible for infecting people with West Nile virus, he said.
The virus is most commonly transmitted to humans and animals through mosquito bites. The risk of serious illness to most people is low, though some individuals — less than 1 percent — will develop serious neurological illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis.
Most who suffer symptoms from the disease experience flu-like symptoms such as body aches, headaches and fever.
Last year, 26 Stanislaus County residents were reported infected with West Nile, the highest rate since the virus was first detected in Stanislaus County in 2004, according to a release from the Stanislaus County's mosquito abatement districts and the county Health Services Agency.
Of those 26, five people — including two rural Patterson residents — lived near the Modesto Secondary Wastewater Treatment facility on Jennings Road just north of Monte Vista Avenue. The facility, which serves the city of Modesto, is east of Patterson on the east side of the San Joaquin River.
Heft said in October that the pond and its canals developed vegetation in 2012 that harbored mosquito larvae, and inspectors found higher-than-normal concentrations of West Nile virus.
This year and over the winter, workers at the plant have worked hard to get vegetation cleaned up, he said.
“We’ve been very pleased to see that they’ve done a lot of work out there,” Heft said. “They’re taking it very seriously, and we don’t expect it to be a problem this year.”
West Side residents can report mosquito-breeding problem areas by contacting the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District at 634-1234.
For more information in English and Spanish, residents can call the West Nile virus hotline at 558-8425. They also can visit www.stanemergency.com.
• Contact the Irrigator at 892-6187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avoid the bite
The Turlock Mosquito Abatement District recommends residents take the following steps to help protect themselves and others from mosquito bites and West Nile virus:
• Dump or drain sources of standing water, including pet bowls, bird baths, rain gutters, tires, flower pots, toys, ornamental ponds and neglected swimming pools
• Avoid spending time outside when mosquitoes are most active — at dawn and dusk, especially the first two hours after sunset
• When outdoors, wear pants, long-sleeved shirts and other protective clothing
• Keep mosquitoes outside houses with tight-fitting screens on doors and windows
• Apply insect repellent containing the active ingredient DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or Picaridin according to label instructions when outdoors