Health & Safety

August 1, 2014

West Nile Virus found in Lancaster, nothing on Edwards

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Rebecca Amber
Staff writer

A Solid-State Army Miniature (SSAM) trap at Branch Pond. The traps are designed to hang from a rope tied to a tree branch or similar surface and attract mosquitoes and other bugs to be tested for viruses.

The Antelope Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District has been informed of two dead birds that have tested positive for West Nile Virus this year.

The first bird was located near Avenue S and 10th Street East in Palmdale earlier this month. The second was spotted July 9, near Avenue M-8 and 45th Street West and reported to the state’s Dead Bird Hotline.

West Nile Virus is an abrovirus, closely related to encephalitis, an untreatable and deadly viral disease primarily transmitted by mosquitoes. While most people do not show signs of West Nile Virus, some may experience severe headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting and chills. Symptoms typically occur within two to 15 days from exposure and there is no human vaccine for the disease. Less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).

Mosquitoes are infected when they bite other animals, such as birds, carrying the disease. There is no evidence that other carriers can transmit the disease to humans and it is not spread by person-to-person contact.

Senior Airman Sabrina Jones, 412th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, runs the Food Safety and Sanitation and Entomology programs on base. She is responsible for pest management and surveillance. Jones is tasked with trapping mosquitoes on base that can be tested for West Nile Virus.

“We haven’t caught any with West Nile in the last three years,” said Jones.

She explained that mosquitoes are attracted to cool damp environments. The traps she sets are generally placed in areas with standing water like Branch Park, Muroc Lake Golf Course and Fam Camp. The traps are designed to hang from a rope tied to a tree branch or similar surface. Each one has a small light to attract the mosquitoes or other bugs. Once the insect reaches the light it is pushed down into a cylindrical net by a small battery-operated fan. When the trap is retrieved, the net is tied off and returned for testing.

Staff Sgt. Cedric Lanier, 412th AMDS, said that the traps are placed in a freezer for 30 minutes before they can be observed under a microscope. “We predominately look for the females because they are more likely to bite,” said Lanier.

If 10 or more mosquito samples are found, they will be packaged and shipped to the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, for evaluation. A detailed report will be sent back that tells how many of each variety of mosquitoes were caught and which might have the potential for carrying West Nile Virus. According to Lanier, there have been very few mosquito samples trapped this year.

The following guidelines are recommended to reduce mosquito exposure:

* Drain any standing water and check small containers weekly

* Keep pools and spas chlorinated or drained and repair any leaks

* Wear loose fitting clothing outdoors and apply a mosquito repellent containing DEET, Picardin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or IR3535. Always adhere to instructions on product labels and never apply repellent to a child’s hands and be careful to avoid the mouth and eyes

* Avoid outdoor actives at dusk and dawn, which are peak times for mosquito exposure.




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