Orange County has seen an an uptick in mosquito activity in urban and coastal areas, recording higher than average counts of the bloodthirsty insect for six straight weeks, officials said Tuesday.
This year’s mosquito count is nearly five times higher than last year’s and double the county’s five-year average, according to a news release from the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District.
Collection traps have captured an average of 110 mosquitoes each, compared to 24 per trap at this time last year, the release stated.
That’s raising concern about West Nile Virus, an incurable and potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness that can be transmitted to humans and animals.
“High mosquito abundance is one factor that increases the risk for West Nile virus (WNV) transmission when virus activity is present. However, OCMVCD currently has not detected any WNV in our surveillance program,” Robert Cummings, the district’s director of Scientific Services, said in the release.
But the virus has already been detected in mosquito samples in the surrounding counties of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego.
L.A. County also reported an increase in mosquito activity in some communities, attributed to a combination of unseasonably late rainfall and hotter weather, according to the county’s Vector Control District.
On June 1, the the county confirmed its first positive test this year for West Nile Virus in a mosquito that was captured in Hacienda Heights.
“This detection should serve as a reminder that WNV is endemic in Los Angeles County. As temperatures increase, so do mosquito populations and disease risk, which poses a serious public health threat in our communities,” Susanne Kluh, director of Scientific-Technical Services for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District, explained in a statement.
Early season virus activity in the region coupled with a higher than average mosquito count is concerning, according to Orange County officials.
They will implement additional outreach to residents while continuing to identify and treat water sources where mosquitoes breed. But, the district says, it is also “essential” that all residents in the county are proactive in reducing and eliminating such breeding on and around their property.
Residents are advised to dump and drain water-filled containers at least once a week, and clean pet water bowls and bird baths on a weekly basis, according to the news release.
Additionally, plant clippings that are rooted in water should not be transported or shared, while containers should be punctured to get rid of standing water.
People can prevent bites from the pesky insects by applying mosquito repellant to exposed skin before going outside, and wearing a repellent that contains DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 or lemon eucalyptus oil, officials said. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, as well as lighter-colored clothing can also help.
And all unscreened doors and windows should be closed to prevent mosquitoes from entering the home.
West Nile Virus can be passed to people through a bite from an infected mosquito.
Among humans who contract the illness, one in 150 will have to be hospitalized, but about 20% will show no symptoms, according to officials.
Signs of the illness includes fever, headache, body aches, nausea or skin rash, which can last for several days or even months.
High fever, muscle weakness, neck stiffness, paralysis and coma are among the severe systems, and the disease could result in death.