Health

Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus found in Orange County for the first time in 2016

File: A mosquito sits on a stick April 9, 2009 in Martinez, California.
File: A mosquito sits on a stick April 9, 2009 in Martinez, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Last month, the first West Nile virus positive mosquitoes were found in Los Angeles County — and now they've been found in Orange County.

The first positive mosquito samples for West Nile virus in the county were identified earlier this month. The two samples are from Seal Beach and La Habra, said Jared Dever from the county’s vector control district.

No confirmed cases of human infection have been reported this year in California, Dever told KPCC, but two birds were submitted and tested positive for the virus earlier this week.

While human cases don’t usually start surfacing until late May or the beginning of June, the infected birds are an early indicator that that soon might change, he said.

In the last two years, Orange County has experienced a surge of reported cases, which Dever said is unusual. In 2014, there were close to 300 cases, and about 100 in 2015. A total of 17 people died because of the virus.   

The district is still unsure what is triggering this swell, but there are some possibilities.

“It could be weather-dependent, it could be an abundance of mosquito breeding sources that are unknown to the district,” Dever said.  

This has prompted the district to reinforce their advice to the public that they take precautions as the mosquito breeding season approaches — like regularly checking their yards for any standing water and wearing insect repellant when they go outdoors.

The Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District board was scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon to discuss these findings. A budget to expand on outreach program to educate the public was set to be introduced, but it won’t be up to be approved until July.

“The need to reach the public with our educational and outreach messaging is greater than ever,” Dever said.

Dever said there were no plans to discuss aerial spraying the county to combat mosquito populations. The district doesn’t think such an action is necessary at this time, he said, but will reevaluate if the conditions reach epidemic proportions.

Although such actions aren’t necessary yet, he stressed the need for the public to do their part to reduce the number of West Nile virus cases this year.