West Nile Virus cannot be prevented from entering San Benito
County. After three years of watchful waiting as West Nile Virus
marched across the United States, California must now confront this
threat to the public’s health on its own territory.
West Nile Virus cannot be prevented from entering San Benito County. After three years of watchful waiting as West Nile Virus marched across the United States, California must now confront this threat to the public’s health on its own territory.
The Public Health Division of San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency has been providing WNV education and prevention for the past two mosquito seasons. No infected dead birds have been found in the county or in our neighboring counties, although that is expected to change. There have been no human cases of WNV in Northern California, although that, too, is expected to change.
The “Fight the Bite” campaign will step up efforts to inform the public about personal protection measures to help in the efforts to reduce the chance of people being bitten by the mosquitoes that could be carrying the virus. Fact sheets will be distributed to the press, schools and health care provider offices. Fact sheets and other information is available on the San Benito County Public Health Web site at www.sanbenitoco.org.
There have been several news stories on WNV in the local press lately, most of them focusing on the lack of a mosquito control district in San Benito County. A mosquito district is supported by the tax dollars of those living within them (and residents must agree to be taxed for this purpose). These districts do surveillance and abatement as needed. A district does not always include an entire county. Districts cannot eliminate mosquitoes but only keep down the numbers. There is much more to WNV prevention than establishing an abatement district.
County Public Health staff met yesterday to communicate the division’s heightened action plan, which is being implemented immediately. The plan includes education of public and providers, surveillance of bird and human cases, liaison with veterinary health, investigations of human cases and collaboration with WNV stakeholders.
A WNV Task Force has been established to include the County Administration, the Office of Emergency Services, a member of the Board of Supervisors, Public Health, Environmental Health, the Agricultural Commissioner, a representative of the State Department of Health Services and possible reps from neighboring control districts to share information about WVN in SBC, to begin to explore the need for a mosquito control district (first step would be assessment of the problem in our county) and to obtain recommendations on how to otherwise respond to mosquito complaints.
To report dead birds call (877) WNV-BIRD (968-2473) or log onto www.westnile.ca.gov to request that the birds be tested. Contact your local veterinarian for vaccination of horses. Information will be provided to the medical community on recommendations for testing, treating and reporting WNV disease as it becomes available from state and federal agencies.
Working together to “Fight the Bite” will minimize the human toll from WNV in San Benito County.
Thank you for your support in this effort.
Elizabeth Falade, MD, MPH