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West Nile found in Orange County in May 2008

West Nile virus symptoms include fever, headache, body ache, a rash, and nausea and vomiting. Orange county reports high levels of mosquito infections in abandoned pools.

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Thousands of abandoned swimming pools, another casualty of the real estate market meltdown, have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes that can carry the West Nile virus, Orange County vector control officials report. The virus is transmitted to people and other animals by infected mosquitoes.

Murky, stagnant water acts as a perfect petri dish for mosquito breeding and as debt-ridden homeowners walk away from their mortgages, paying the pool guy is not high on anybody's to-do list.

What has alarmed officials is a report of 13 birds found dead with the virus in Orange County in the first nine days of May. There were no reports of humans with the virus.

"Thirteen birds in such a short time frame is reminiscent of 2004 conditions," said Robert Cummings, Orange County Vector Control science director. During that critical year, four people died in the county and 28 died statewide after becoming infected with the virus.

Dr. Hildy Meyers, Orange County medical director of epidemiology, warned that as temperatures rise, the county could start to see cases of people contracting the disease.

"People need to be aware of West Nile virus," Meyers said. "Some of the symptoms include fever, headache, body ache, a rash, and nausea and vomiting."

About one in 150 people can develop a severe illness, she said. The state's worst year was in 2004 when 830 human cases were reported. The virus also infected 540 horses, resulting in 230 deaths. A vaccine is available for horses.

Vector control districts don't have enough field inspectors to cover Southern California, especially now because of the rising number of vacant homes, officials said.

Mosquito larvae can develop in a week in as little as a quarter-inch of water.


Edited by Carolyn Allen
| water quality | health | disaster recovery |


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