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Fall mosquito season brings risk of West Nile virus to Kern County

Posted at 8:33 PM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 23:33:30-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — As the fall season approaches, we are finally seeing some cooler temperatures, but there is a downside. Cooler temperatures means mosquitoes will become more active and the threat of the West Nile virus will rise.

“For the next four to five weeks you can probably notice an increase in mosquitoes possibly around your home,” said Terry Knight, Public Information Officer for the Kern Mosquito & Vector Control District.

Knight says that with the increase in mosquitoes, people need to to be aware of the dangers they present, especially the West Nile virus.

According to Knight, West Nile virus has become endemic to Kern County. The virus has been found in Kern since 2004, and it causes problems for both residents and livestock.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 out of 10 people who get infected by the virus show no symptoms at all. About 1 in 5 people will develop flu-like symptoms, such as body aches, fever, vomiting, and rash. Most people recover completely from West Nile, but some can develop fatigue and weakness that could last for weeks or months.

About 1 out of every 150 people who are infected with West Nile will develop severe neurological illness as a result of swelling in the brain or spinal cord. Severe West Nile illness can result in permanent central nervous system damage, and about 1 in 10 people who develop severe illness die.

Symptoms of severe West Nile disease include tremors, disorientation, convulsions, vision loss, and paralysis. Severe illness can occur in people of any age, but people over 60 years of age and those with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and those who have received organ transplants, are at greater risk.

There are currently no vaccines or specific medicines available for West Nile virus infection, so your best offense is a good defense. Knight says mosquito repellent with DEET is the best way to repel the insects.

“If you buy one of these products that has at least 25 percent DEET and you use this thoroughly, you can deter these mosquitoes and keep them from biting you,” said Knight.

Knight also warns that as little as a tablespoon of standing water can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, so make sure to clear any standing water that may be in your yard. If you are bitten, use an anti-itch cream to ease the irritation, and if you are concerned you have been exposed to the West Nile virus or start experiencing flu symptoms, your doctor can order tests to look specifically for West Nile infection.