EL CAJON – A dead hawk found in unincorporated El Cajon was the second bird to test positive for West Nile virus in San Diego County this year, two weeks after a Santee man became the first human in the county to contract the disease in two years, county officials said.
A dead crow that was reported in the city of San Diego in July was the first bird to test positive for the potentially deadly disease.
The positive test in the dead hawk, which was reported on Thursday, came the same week that state officials announced two people had died from West Nile virus. An elderly woman from Sacramento County and a man from Shasta County became the first humans to die from the disease in the state this year. There have been 36 confirmed human cases in the state so far this year.
The California Department of Public Health reported 15 West Nile virus- related fatalities in the state last year.
The infection in the 43-year-old Santee man was found during a screen of blood he donated. He had experienced no symptoms, which is not unusual for the disease, which is spread by mosquitoes.
The man, who went camping outside the state the week before his blood was drawn, did not recall any recent mosquito bites, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency.
”Even though it’s most likely this individual acquired West Nile outside of the county, we know the virus is here in San Diego County,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, at the time the man’s disease was reported.
Most people are infected with the virus from June through October, with the ”peak season” in August and September.
Of those who become infected with West Nile virus, 80 percent will have no symptoms, according to the county HHSA. About one in five people who are infected will develop only a mild illness that includes a headache, fever,
nausea, fatigue, skin rash or swollen glands.
One in 150 will suffer serious neurologic complications that can become life-threatening. The risk of complications increases for those over age 50, and for people with weakened immune systems.
”There are easy things that people can do to protect themselves,” said San Diego County Environmental Health Director Liz Pozzebon. ”Use insect repellents and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants if you’re out at dusk.”
The county urges residents to prevent mosquito breeding by dumping or removing backyard items that can hold water, such as plant saucers, rain gutters, buckets, garbage cans, toys, old tires and wheelbarrows.
”Especially now after our recent rains — clear your yard and home of standing water where mosquitoes can breed,” Pozzebon said.
Mosquito fish, available for free from Vector Control, can be used to control breeding of the insect in water sources such as neglected swimming pools, ponds, fountains and water troughs.
Health agency officials said an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of eucalyptus or IR3535 can be applied before going outside.
Window and door screens should also be checked to make sure they are in good condition and secured.
The presence of the virus can be detected in dead birds. Dead crows, ravens, jays, hawks and owls that don’t show an obvious cause of death can be reported to Vector Control at (858) 694-2888.
Vector Control will also take reports on green, uncared-for swimming pools, which mosquitoes use for breeding.