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Four infected with mosquito-borne illnesses in Tulare County, health officials say

How to stay safe from mosquitoes

Zika and West Nile viruses are both transmitted by mosquitoes. Officials from public health and from Sacramento-Yolo vector control explain how to protect yourself from bites.
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Zika and West Nile viruses are both transmitted by mosquitoes. Officials from public health and from Sacramento-Yolo vector control explain how to protect yourself from bites.

Four people are suspected of contracting West Nile Virus in Tulare County, the county and state Department of Public Health announced.

The health department is urging the public to use precaution around mosquitoes, which carry the virus, after three men and a child were affected in Visalia and Tulare.

The Delta Vector Control District, which studies and controls the mosquito population in much of Tulare County, also confirmed St. Louis Encephalitis Virus in mosquitoes in Tulare County.

Symptoms of West Nile and St. Louis Encephalitis

Symptoms of both West Nile and St. Louis Encephalitis are similar, the health department said in a news release, and it is possible the four patients actually have St. Louis Encephalitis.

With both diseases, 80% of people infected will show no symptoms at all.

Symptoms will range from moderate to mild in those who do get sick, and include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, and vomiting. Sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back can occur, the health department said.

More serious symptoms include high fever, vision loss, tremors, muscle weakness and paralysis.

In less than 1% of people infected, symptoms may last for several weeks causing permanent neurological damage and death.

How to stay safe and help

Public Health officer Dr. Karen Haught recommends using an insect repellent with DEET and dressing in long sleeves and pants during dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Haught also encourages residents to drain standing water and repair door and window screens with holes.

Reporting areas of standing water and dead birds and squirrels can also help track and control mosquitoes and the viruses, the health department said. To report dead or sick birds, visit westnile.ca.gov/report_wnv.php.

The summer of mosquitoes

Health officials around the Valley predicted a large mosquito population this year after heavy winter snowpack and spring rain.

Two people tested positive for West Nile Virus in Fresno County at the end of July, according to the county’s public health department, and five others were suspected of carrying the virus.

Dr. Ken Bird, Fresno County deputy health officer, said confirmation of the West Nile virus should alarm residents. It’s “a strong reminder that everyone should increase efforts to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites.”

The Delta Vector Control District also is advising residents about another type of mosquito new to the Central San Joaquin Valley.

The Yellow Fever Mosquito, or Aedes aegypti, has been found in Tulare County and was first discovered in Madera and Clovis in 2013.

It bites throughout the day, not just at dawn and dusk like the Culex mosquitoes usually do. Experts say Culex mosquitoes usually fill up on blood until full, while the Aedes aegypti won’t, instead biting multiple times or multiple people.

While the Aedes aegypti is a risk for transmitting new diseases in the Valley, it cannot transmit West Nile virus or Saint Louis encephalitis.The Aedes aegypti are also more aggressive and more likely to follow people indoors.

It has the ability to spread Zika, yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya viruses if those diseases were brought here.

The Delta Vector Control District is asking people who are bit during the day to call 877-732-8606 to set up a property inspection.

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPanoo
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