Public health officials in California have detected three separate cases of West Nile virus (WNV) infecting animals in the state.
Officials from the Mosquito and Vector Control District in Santa Cruz revealed on July 8 that a bird found in the county's Upper Westside had indeed been infected with the disease, which suggests that mosquitoes in the area may be carrying the WNV.
The agency said it has already deployed technicians to the area in order to look for possible mosquito breeding grounds.
Meanwhile, two dead American crows discovered in San Mateo County also tested positive for West Nile virus on July 6. According to the county's Mosquito and Vector Control District, the infected birds were recovered from West Atherton and from the Eagle Hill-Mount Carmel area in Redwood City.
Megan Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the district, explained that there are more cases of WNV infection in the South Bay than in the north during summer because the virus tends to spread more quickly among mosquitoes in hotter temperatures.
The Culex pipiens mosquito, which is native to the Bay Area, is the species most associated with the spread of the disease in the region.
In 2015, the West Nile virus was detected in San Mateo as early as April. While detection of the virus came later in the season this year, Caldwell said that it doesn't necessarily mean that we would see less activity from the virus compared to last year. In fact, she pointed out that mosquitoes become more active the hotter the weather gets.
A third case of WNV infection was recorded in San Diego County earlier in the month. A 5-year-old unvaccinated gray thoroughbred mare began to show signs of neurological problems, which included severe lip twitching, neck and spine stiffness, depression and ataxia. It was later confirmed to be caused by the mosquito-borne virus.
County officials said the mare was able to survive the infection and that the animal is now recovering from the disease slowly.
Despite these cases of WNV infecting animals in California, there are no reported instances of humans contracting the virus this year so far.
Health experts in the state have urged the public to report any dead squirrels or birds they find, which may have possibly been infected with the virus.
To help prevent the spread of WNV, people are advised to clear out any dormant water that may have accumulated in discarded buckets, old tires, or sagging gutters. This can keep mosquitoes from turning them into breeding grounds.
For protection, you can apply insect repellents with eucalyptus, picaridin or DEET to exposed body parts to keep yourself from being bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes.