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Bay Area Public Health Officials Brace For West Nile Virus Season

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(AP)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

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SAN JOSE (KCBS) – Dead birds have begun testing positive for West Nile virus in the Bay Area, several weeks ahead of what experts consider the “official” start of the West Nile virus season, in June.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

In the past three weeks alone, three crows tested positive for West Nile virus in Santa Clara County.

“There was one in Sunnyvale, one in Los Gatos and then there was one over in southeast San Jose,” outlined Russ Parman with the Santa Clara County Vector Control District.

He tempered his comment by pointing out that the number of dead birds found thus far in 2011 was more or less on par with last year’s figure at the same time of year.

Still, he warned that neglected backyard pools – essentially stagnant water serving as a breeding hotbed for mosquito activity – remained a concern, given the number of foreclosures and homeowners simply unable to afford pool maintenance costs.

“Since 2007 we’ve logged over 4,000 here,” he offered the stunning number of foreclosures with neglected pools in the community. “Last year, before the season started we were sitting at about 3,200 pools or so and we discovered an additional 1,000 last year alone.”

“There are a lot of people that are just having a really hard time right now due to this recession, keeping up with their bills,” he continued. “And so the electricity for the pump and the chemicals for the pool are one of the first things to go.”

The problem, of course, wasn’t limited to Santa Clara County.

“We also have a continuing problem with foreclosed homes with swimming pools that are being neglected that we have to look out for, especially in our area,” added John Rusmisel, district manager of the Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District.

Equally troubling, as far as Rusmisel was concerned: the heavy winter rain from a few months ago.

“We’re expecting to see more West Nile Virus because we have had a lot of rain and there’s a huge snowpack that’s starting to melt,” he warned. “If you have that snowpack and the rainfall, you’re going to have more mosquitoes, you’re going to expect to see more West Nile virus cases.”

Mosquitoes contract the West Nile virus when they bite infected birds. People, in turn, become infected when bitten by an infected mosquito. Health officials stress that many people who are bitten by infected mosquitoes don’t know it, and don’t suffer any serious symptoms or side-effects as a result of the virus’ transmission. People with weakened immune systems, elderly and very young people, and pregnant women, tend to be most at risk for complications from the virus.

Typical, mild symptoms of West Nile virus are fever, headache, muscle aches and nausea.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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