BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Every year in Kern County people and animals are infected by the West Nile Virus. According to Kern County Public Health in 2019 there were 32 human cases. In 2020 there were eight, in 2021 there were three and so far this year, two confirmed cases.
Officials say there are steps you can take to try and avoid coming in contact with mosquitoes.
“I think if you talk to anyone they’re going to tell you they’ve come into contact with mosquitos and so this is the time where transmission is typically the highest," explained Michelle Corson, public information officer with the Kern County Public Health.
What is West Nile Virus?
West Nile virus (WNV) is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. It is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. Cases of WNV occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall. There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV in people. Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not feel sick. About 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About 1 out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness. You can reduce your risk of WNV by using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent mosquito bites.
Getting bitten by a mosquito should not be taken likely. Culex mosquitoes which can be found in Kern County can cause West Nile Virus. Terry Knight with the Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District says the number of mosquitoes carrying the virus is raising concern.
“The mosquitoes that we are sending off to UC Davis right now are testing positive weekly, and the numbers are coming back with more positive results than last year.”
Symptoms can range from fever, headache, muscle weakness, a rash, and more. But only 1 in 5 people will develop them. In other cases that can be different.
“But there’s about 20 percent that are going to experience symptoms, and those symptoms can also progress into – in really rare circumstances – death,” said Corson.
Knight says it's best to inspect your yard for any containers or plants that have water because that’s what will attract mosquitoes.
“If you have potted plants, I recommend one of three things: either get rid of the water saucers and get rid of the water saucers altogether and just let the water drain through, or it takes a little more work you can fill the base of the saucer fill of sand. What that does is it creates a barrier so those mosquitoes can no longer live and survive in there.”
The Control District also has another tool in the works to fight off mosquitoes is the A-1 Super Duty Mistblower.
“Shoots a plume up into the air and uses the wind to disperse this material over front yards and backyards with the idea of being able to drop those.”
While there is no human vaccine for the virus Corson says to do your best to prevent being in contact with mosquitoes.
“There is no specific treatment other than treating the symptoms once you have them. If it's things like a fever, making sure you stay hydrated More supportive treatments are available if you get to that point. That’s why really your best protection is to avoid getting bitten in the first place.”
So there have been two cases in horses so far this year. There is a vaccine available for horses when it comes to West Nile Virus.
Kern County Public Health also says with all the different viruses going around it's best for you to determine when it’s time to reach out to your doctor depending on your symptoms.