Health authorities say several Asian "tiger mosquitoes," a species known to cause dengue fever and encephalitis in Asia, have been found in Los Angeles Harbor and at a wholesale nursery.
The mosquitoes were discovered at the harbor two weeks ago in small containers of "lucky bamboo," an ornamental plant regarded by many Asians as a good luck charm. The containers held two to three inches of water, which facilitate mosquito breeding.
"We have taken immediate measures to control the problem," said Arthur Tilzer, who heads the Consumer Protection Bureau of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. All newly shipped containers of lucky bamboo will be held at port and inspected, officials said; if any mosquitoes or larvae are found, they are to be destroyed.
Dr. Jonathan Fielding, health officer for Los Angeles County, said the mosquito, which has existed east of the Mississippi River since the 1970s, has never been known to cause human illness in the United States. But this is the first time it has been found on the West Coast.
He said people can protect themselves from mosquito bites with repellents containing the chemical DEET.
Minoo Madon, technical director at the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District, recommended emptying out any containers with stagnant water and cleaning out rain gutters.
Dengue is a viral disease that can cause headaches, joint and muscular pain, and rashes. The Asian tiger mosquito also can carry encephalitis--an inflammation of the brain--yellow fever and dog heartworm.