Dead bird tests positive for West Nile Virus in Humboldt County

A confirmed case of West Nile Virus appeared in Humboldt County after a dead bird tested positive for the disease.

"West Nile Virus is a mosquito-born virus," Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Environmental Health Division Director Melissa Martel said. "When a mosquito feeds on a bird and gets the virus, then it can spread it to other warm-blooded mammals or animals."

Humans do not typically manifest symptoms when they're infected with West Nile Virus. Although very rare and extreme cases can cause death, some people can become very sick if they're not properly treated after contracting the virus.

According to DHHS, West Nile Virus usually needs several weeks of warm temperatures to intensify. It needs an even larger number of transmission cycles among hosts to cause illness.

"This is a little early in the season to see the birds testing positive," Martel said. "Usually, it's in the warmer summer months that we see the positive birds, but this year we're getting one in June for whatever reason."

Despite that fact, Martel says it is never too early to begin taking precautions against mosquito bites.

"Drain all pooling water - dog dishes, tires, bird feeders - just drain them and make sure you don't have any pooling water," Martel said. "Wear long sleeve shirts and pants and socks and shoes. Also try to avoid dusk and dawn, because that's the time mosquitoes are prevalent."

DHHS also urges people to call them if they see a dead bird, squirrel, or other small animal so it can be tested.

Only specific types of mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus. DHHS will send someone to identify them and warn anyone who lives somewhere mosquitoes commonly appear, if they are contacted.

The prevalence of West Nile Virus in Humboldt County is low due to its climate. That's one reason why Martel says, for the most part, there's little concern over a potential outbreak.

"One positive bird does not give reason for there to be concern about West Nile Virus in Humboldt County," Martel said.

Residents are still advised to follow safety measures nonetheless. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using EPA-registered insect repellants, such as DEET or Picaridin, for protection from mosquito bites. Installing or repairing screens for windows and doors will also help to further mosquito-proof your home.

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