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South Bay Avoids West Nile, For Now

The virus has shown up in the area in the past. Learn how to detect and prevent West Nile.

As reported cases of the West Nile virus increase in the greater Los Angeles area this year, the South Bay has avoided the mosquito-borne illness for the time being.

However, if the end of this summer is similar to summers past, chances are the virus could start appearing in the area.

According to vector control, West Nile is transmitted through bites from infected mosquitoes. Humans become infected when bitten by a mosquito that has first fed on a diseased bird or animal.

According to the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District, which monitors, prevents and tests for West Nile and other animal-borne diseases for the South Bay, seven cases of West Nile were found in animals in the area in 2011.

Of those cases, two were reported in El Segundo, one in Rolling Hills Estates and four in Torrance. There were no reported cases of the virus in the three beach cities in 2011. 

Bob Saviskas, the executive director of L.A. County West Vector Control District, said that the beach cities are usually at a lower risk for West Nile because of cooler temperatures.

"One of the biggest factors is that it is much cooloer near the ocean and the mosquitoes do not breed as fast as in a hottter area like the San Fernando Valley," said Saviskas. "The slower they breed, the less numbers you have and the less likely you are to be infected with the mosquito."

The vector control district relies on samples of dead birds, sentinel flocks of chickens, mosquito pools and dead squirrels to test for the disease.

Vector control encourages everyone in the district to report any dead birds found in the area. Dead birds can be reported to the toll-free hotline at 877-WNV BIRD (877-968-2473).

Because mosquitoes rely on standing water to breed, health officials offer these tips to help curb mosquito populations:

  • Eliminate standing water in clogged gutters, barrels, buckets, discarded tires, troughs or any thing that holds water for more than a week.
  • Ensure that swimming pools, spas and ponds are properly maintained.
  • Change the water in pet dishes, birdbaths and other small containers at least weekly.
  • Request free mosquito-eating fish from local vector control districts to place in out-of-order swimming pools, spas and ponds.
  • Report neglected (green) swimming pools in your neighborhood.
  • Report mosquito activity near vacant or foreclosed properties.

In addition, vector control officials urge locals to follow the three “D's” of West Nile virus prevention to protect themselves and their families:

  • DUMP/DRAIN: eliminate all standing water.
  • DUSK/DAWN: avoid outdoor activities when mosquitoes are most active.
  • DEFEND: use mosquito repellents containing DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus and wear long-sleeve shirts and pants when outdoors. Keep tight-fitting screens on doors and windows.

Symptoms of West Nile virus:

People infected with West Nile virus can experience a variety of symptoms that may include: no symptoms, West Nile Fever, or West Nile Neuroinvasive disease. Symptoms usually occur 2-15 days after infection.

Symptoms of “West Nile Fever” can include:

  • Headaches (often severe migraines)
  • High fever
  • Tiredness and body aches
  • A skin rash and swollen lymph glands

These symptoms may last from several days to several weeks.

Symptoms of “West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease” can include:

  • Severe Headache
  • High Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Stupor
  • Disorientation
  • Tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Coma: This form of the disease can lead to long lasting and/or permanent damage to the brain.

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