2012-03-01 / Front Page

County’sfirst West Nile Virus of the year found in Westlake Village

By Sylvie Belmond

A dead bird recently found in Westlake Village tested positive for West Nile virus.

It was Los Angeles County’s first case of the virus recorded in 2012, according to the county vector control district.

Councilmember Ned Davis spotted the diseased crow on Blue Meadow Lane in the Westlake Trails neighborhood on his way to work. He called the city, which in turn contacted the Los Angeles County Vector Control District.

“They sent someone out and had the bird tested. It was positive for the virus,” Westlake City Manager Ray Taylor said.

West Nile virus is spread by infected mosquitoes. The virus is rarely fatal, in fact most people who are bitten do not develop symptoms, but in a small percentage of cases the virus can cause neurological and other serious health problems.

If a bird tests positive that doesn’t mean the mosquito that infected it is local. A bird carrying the virus can be infected up to 10 miles away from where it is found, experts say.

Still, the city remains cautious.

“Even though we’re still technically in winter, we have to be mindful of standing water issues and take care to mosquito-proof our homes,” Taylor said.

Symptoms of West Nile disease can include severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis and coma. They may last from several days to several weeks.

Prevention goes a long way in reducing the risk of contracting West Nile virus, experts say.

Apply insect repellent to exposed skin whenever outdoors, even for a short time. Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks, and spray skin and clothing during the peak mosquito-biting times of dusk to dawn.

Mosquito-proof the home. Drain standing water. Turn over pots, buckets, children’s wading pools, pet bowls and trash containers, and put drain holes in rubber tires. Empty or change water in birdbaths weekly. Keep the swimming pool chlorinated and make sure the filter is operating. Even a small jar of open water can become a mosquito breeding ground.

Install and repair window and door screens.

Report dead birds and potential mosquito-breeding concerns to authorities.

Horse owners should contact their veterinarians as soon as possible to have horses properly vaccinated.

Use mosquito fish in ornamental ponds.

The public is encouraged to report dead birds to help with West Nile virus surveillance and control efforts. Dead birds should be reported to the toll-free hotline at (877) WNV-BIRD (968-2473).

For mosquito problems and to obtain free mosquito fish, call (310) 915-7370. Additional information about the Los Angeles County West Vector and Vector- Borne Disease Control District and West Nile virus can be found at www.lawestvector.org.

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