Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica, Westside Sees Decline in West Nile Virus-Infected Birds
By Jason Islas
August 21, 2013 -- Despite a drop in the number of infected birds in Santa Monica and Los Angeles' westside, officials urge residents to use caution to avoid the mosquito-borne West Nile virus.
The lower count of birds testing positive for the disease correlates to a drop in the number of people contracting the virus, with County-wide human infections dropping from 174 last year to 27 so far this year.
“It's been cool this year on the coast,” said Nancy Greenstein, Santa Monica's representative on the L.A. County West Vector District board. “That might be why it seems a little slower.”
While the year isn't over, Greenstein said that the prime season for West Nile Virus is usually from early summer to early fall.
Santa Monica so far hasn't reported any infected birds this year. However, last year by September, public health officials had tallied five dead birds within city limits that had tested positive for the disease.
Officials say that dead birds are the least reliable way to determine where infections occurred. Nearly all the infected birds are American crows which have a daily flight radius of 10 to 20 miles.
This year, dead birds have tested positive for the virus in Culver City, Hawthorne, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach and Torrence.
“Sentinel” chickens in Beverly Hills and El Segundo have also tested positive.
“Sentinel” chickens, “are well-cared for and fed, but they live in chicken coops,” Greenstein said. Officials routinely test the chickens' blood for the virus.
“They stand guard,” she said.
With no specific treatment or vaccine against the virus, officials emphasize precaution as the best way to avoid the disease.
Greenstein recommends buying mosquito fish to place in any standing water.
“They're small,” she said. “They're cute little fish.” And the District provides them for free for those who call 310-915-7370.
Mosquitoes tend to breed in places like unused swimming pools, water pooling in potted plants and even fountains, officials said.
Greenstein said that if residents pick up mosquito repellent, make sure it has DEET.
“Repellents containing DEET, picaradin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus are the longest lasting and most effective,” officials said.
West Nile Virus is rarely deadly. In 2003, there were 264 total deaths from the virus. The flu kills between 100 and 130 times more people than that a year.
Only about 20 percent of those infected experience symptoms, but it is not a pleasant experience and leads to headaches, disorientation and stiffness in the neck. In extreme cases, it can cause comas, tremors, paralysis and death.
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