Two Chickens Test Positive; West Nile in the Valley
Photo: Video by kmir6.com
INDIO - The Coachella Valley has seen its first two animals test positive for West Nile. This is the first sign the virus is in the valley this year. West Nile is transmitted between birds and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes then infect humans. "We do know that there are mosquitoes with the virus in that [Mecca] area because the sentinel chickens have tested positive,” says spokesperson for the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District Jill Oviatt.
CVMVCD has ten coops across the valley housing seven chickens that are tested every other week. This week, two chickens from the same coop tested positive for West Nile. But, not to worry; chickens can’t transmit the virus back to mosquitoes. "Chickens are called a “dead-end” host so even though the mosquitoes will bite the chickens, the chickens will create anti-bodies to the virus to where they can't pass it on to a mosquito again,” says Vector Ecologist Greg White. So what birds can transmit the virus? “Around our area, sparrows and fitches are good. Also, ravens and crows are good transmitters of the virus,” says White. He also says even small puddles near a house or pool can attract mosquitoes. “If those puddles are around for three or four days, that’s long enough for them to go through their life cycle,” says White.
The chickens that tested positive come from a coop near Avenue 70 and Lincoln Street in Mecca, near the Salton Sea. “Some areas of the Salton Sea won’t have mosquitoes but around the edges of the Salton Sea where there is lot’s of vegetation and the water doesn’t move, it’s a perfect place for mosquitoes to breed,” says Oviatt. This year, the Coachella Valley hasn’t seen as many cases of West Nile as the same time last year. Last year at this time there were four chickens infected; this year, there have been two. Last year, there were 22 mosquitoes that tested positive. This year, there have been zero. White says there's a reason for that. "Once a bird gets the disease and is infected and creates those anti-bodies, then they are immune to the virus so it may take a few years to get new birds that are naive to the virus or haven't been exposed,” says White. He says in order to avoid being bitten this 4th of July, you may need to sacrifice a little comfort. “It might not be pleasant in the heat but wear long sleeves or if you can’t do that then wear a mosquito repellent,” says White. La Quinta resident Leonell McCann says it's worth it. "It's definitely really important because it can cause illness and death,” says McCann. CVMVCD offers these tips as well:
Apply insect repellent-- use a repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Lemon eucalyptus oil should not be used on children under three years of age. Be aware of peak mosquito hours. Dawn and dusk are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities during that time. Also, mosquito-proof your home by draining standing water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places for mosquitoes to breed by draining/discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty unused flowerpots and wading pools. Change water in birdbaths and pet bowls at least weekly. They recommend installing or repairing screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.
Most individuals who are infected with WNV will not experience any illness. Others will have only mild symptoms, such as fever, headache and body aches. However, young children, the elderly, or individuals with lowered immune systems are at greater risk of experiencing more severe symptoms when infected.
Please contact the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District at (760) 342-8287 or (888) 343-9399 to report mosquito problems, request mosquitofish, and report neglected pools or standing water where mosquitoes breed. Visit us online at www.cvmvcd.org to obtain more information and submit service requests.