West Nile concerns reach LH
By Taylor Engle
La Habra Journal
The California drought is an ongoing issue that has affected citizens’ lifestyles significantly. La Habra residents are well aware that this drought causes brown lawns and dirty vehicles, but it is now known to cause an increase in risk of getting sick.
The Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District treated four cases of the West Nile Virus in La Habra this year. The virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, birds, and humans, is much more likely to spread with our lack of rain. Last year, there were 19 deaths in OC due to this virus.
The West Nile Virus was first discovered in America in New York in 1999. It slowly made its way westward and was discovered in Orange County in 2004. Since then, there have been 534 reported cases of the virus in Orange County, 280 of which were discovered last year alone.
While mosquitoes are attracted to water sources, the lack of rain to clean out the underground water systems is causing the dirty water to build up and attract the virus.
“This is a problem happening under people’s feet, which makes it extremely difficult to treat,” said OCVCD Director of Communications Jared Dever.
The governing body of vector control in La Habra, the OCVCD routinely checks for breeding sources around the city, but there is no telling where a person can be bitten.
“The Orange County Health Care Agency reports human cases,” said Dever. “An OCVCD team then goes in and checks for overlooked breeding sources like ponds or green pools, but ultimately there are no safe places.”
In order to lower risk of the West Nile Virus, the Orange County Vector Control Board took three major precautions: doing an aerial surveillance of the pools in La Habra to detect the ones in need of upkeep, treating storm drain and creek areas, and educating the public.
“We detected pools that were at risk and inserted mosquito fish, which help kill the bacteria,” said La Habra Councilman James Gomez.
The OCVCD encourages citizens to take precautions as well. Citizens should make sure to do a weekly property inspection of their home to check for water sources and tears in window/door screens.
“The mosquito most commonly found in Orange County is the Southern House mosquito, whose name should be a hint,” said Dever. “They do most of their feeding indoors and at night, so we encourage exclusion.”
Dever said citizens should also remain as covered up as possible when outdoors and apply mosquito repellent.
Detailed information on precaution can be found on both the City of La Habra website and the OCVCD website.
The city has also put up signs in all community parks warning people of the dangers of the West Nile Virus.
To increase awareness, the Board organized a “Clean-Up Day” September 19 with citizen participation. Members of OCVCD handed out information on the virus. Additionally, they have gone door-to-door in areas considered “at risk” and provided information for the residents.
The City of La Habra also posts information on social media to keep the public informed and up to date.
“An important thing for the citizens to do would be to call us when they find a dead bird,” said Gomez. “That way we can immediately check for the virus and get to the source before it becomes a problem.”