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West Nile concerns make mosquito abatement a priority in Kern County

The recent rainy weather means more mosquitoes this summer, and a higher risk for West Nile Virus infections in Kern County and throughout the Central Valley.
Posted: 6:07 PM, Apr 03, 2023
Updated: 2023-04-04 12:14:45-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Mosquito season is right around the corner, and there is concern that with all the recent rain, we're are expected to have high activity this year. Rain barrels, clogged drains, fountains, or just a small amount of standing water can be a breeding place for mosquitoes, and when local mosquito populations increase, so does the chance that Kern County will see an increase in West Nile Virus cases this year.

"We are going to have thousands of acres of recharged water that's available to different water districts," said Kern Mosquito and Vector Control Public Information Officer Terry Knight. "So what that means is you're gonna have thousands of acres of surface water also available to mosquitoes. So, is there going to be excessive habitat for these mosquitoes to breed? The answer is yes."

Knight says Kern County has not seen rain like this in years, so with an expected increase in mosquitoes, there is a possibility of more West Nile Virus cases this summer.

"The mosquitoes that are going to be out there and that will be abundant around the recharge basins also have the possibility of carrying and transmitting West Nile Virus," said Knight.

According to Knight, mosquito season 'officially' starts on April 17. That's also when a full crew of seasonal operators will be monitoring the city with service requests for mosquito termination and abatement.

Mosquito team foreman Armando Gutierrez says they will also increase staffing this year in order to help contain the mosquitoes, but it will not be easy to terminate all of them.

"It's still going to be quite a difficult challenge to get everything all treated up. By no means are we going to be able to eliminate these mosquitoes, but we are going to be ale to control them, you know, as best we can," said Gutierrez.

Vector Control have been experimenting with a new way of terminating mosquitoes using a mist blower called the A1. Knight says he hopes to see positive results with it.

"The machine worked very well. Applications went very well, and the mosquito numbers went down for the 6-week period," said Knight. "We did find out also that the material that we are using really has to residual effect, so after the treatments were over, the mosquito numbers started to rebound."

The A1 isn't the only tool the county is using to combat mosquitoes.

"We will be stocking mosquito fish by the thousands into these recharge basins," said Knight. "They are a very helpful biological tool. The adult mosquito fish can eat up to 80 mosquito larvae per day, so once we get these fish established in these basins, the mosquito fish can actually hold off and maintain almost all of the mosquitoes."

According to Knight, residents can help Vector Control combat mosquitoes by checking for and dumping out any standing water, even if it's a very small amount, around your yard or home.

"Dump and drain all items around your home. Anything that can hold water right now: buckets, wheelbarrows, check your boats. Like I said, any container no matter how large or how small it might be, please be vigilant. Check those items weekly, and if it doesn't have to be outdoors, bring it in out of the weather," said Knight.


The Kern County Public Health Department is also concerned about this upcoming mosquito season, and KCPH Public Relations Officer Michelle Corson agrees that the most important thing people can do to protect the community is to eliminate any standing water around their property.

"Everybody should really get in the habit of looking and assessing your property, and I'm talking everything from bird baths to flower pots that can pool the water in the little flower pot dishes, to pets' bowls, to toys that can get flipped over and let a small amount of water pool and become just very stagnant," said Corson.

Public Health says one of their biggest concerns this year in Kern County is West Nile Virus. According to reports from both Kern County Public Health and the State of California, Los Angeles, Fresno, and Kern Counties seem to have had the most confirmed West Nile cases in people over the last five years.

Recently, 2019 was the worst year for West Nile in Kern, with 32 human infections. This was mainly because that year had more rain and was warmer than usual.

According to Public Health, this year could be the same or possibly worse.

"It's just up to all of us," said Corson. "And we really encourage people, because we're moving in and this is going to be a long season of mosquito activity in Kern County, and it's up to all of us. You know, we all have neighbors, and what you do in and around your property and how you take care of it, that affects your neighborhood."

Public Health also shared more details on West Nile Virus and what symptoms to look out for if you suspect an infection.

West Nile symptoms include fever, vomiting, and rash. Most cases of West Nile are mild, but if you start having symptoms like this after getting a mosquito bite and they last longer than a day, you should see your doctor.

West Nile is most likely to be severe among the very old, the very young, and people who already have compromised immunity.