West Nile virus found in Newport-Mesa

Marisa O'Neil

Two dead birds infected with the West Nile virus, which can be fatal

to humans and has killed one man in Orange County, were found in

Newport Beach and Costa Mesa in July.

A dead crow found July 16 at Mariners and Dover drives tested

positive for the mosquito-borne illness, Orange County Vector Control

District informed Newport Beach city officials Thursday.

"Needless to say, when we got the news, it was a shock,"

Councilman Steve Bromberg said. "It's a very disturbing realization

that this can strike, not close to home, but at home. It's something

I take, and we as a city take, very seriously."

Another crow, found July 19 in Costa Mesa, also tested positive

for the virus, said Tricia Arcelona, spokeswoman for the Orange

County Health Care Agency.

So far, two human cases have been reported in Orange County -- the

first a Fullerton man who died last month, the second a 41-year-old

Orange County man who was hospitalized on July 24 with symptoms of

meningitis, health officials said.. He was confirmed Thursday as the

second case in the county and is now recovering, health officials

said.

A total of 73 birds in Orange County have tested positive, most in

north-county cities.

"People think if they don't live there, they're safe," said

Michael Hearst, director of public information and government

relations for the Orange County Vector Control. "Mosquitoes and birds

have wings. People in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa need to do the

same as people everywhere else, and that is eliminate standing water.

It doesn't have to be green, scummy water. It can be in a tray or a

flowerpot."

Costa Mesa animal control officer Art Beames said he has seen a

noticeable increase in the number of dead birds. He found two sick

birds on Thursday alone, he said. The Costa Mesa bird sent to county

vector control came from county animal control officers, Hearst said.

Costa Mesa city officials on Friday were unaware of the reported

case in the city.

"I have heard nothing about it," said Ann Shultz, legislative and

public affairs director. "We are certainly going to check it out."

County vector control has been working to control the mosquito

population, Hearst said. Areas such as the Back Bay can provide a

fertile breeding ground for mosquito larvae if water stands too long,

he said.

Vector control sets traps and uses mosquito-larvae-eating fish to

stem mosquito breeding in pools and ponds.

If bitten by an infected mosquito, some people may get sick, while

most may never show symptoms, Arcelona said. The elderly and those

with chronic illnesses are most likely to become infected with the

flu-like virus.

Symptoms of infection include fever, headache, body aches, nausea,

vomiting and a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.

People can avoid being bitten by using insect repellent containing

DEET, wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts and staying inside after

dark.

"It's inevitable that there will be more human cases," Arcelona

said.

The second year of the virus in an area is generally the worst,

Hearst said. He expects that there will be fewer cases next year as

people are more careful to keep mosquitoes at bay.

If residents find a dead bird they may dispose of it wearing

gloves, he said. Birds do not transmit the virus, only mosquitoes.

* MARISA O'NEIL covers public safety and courts. She may be

reached at (949) 574-4268 or by e-mail at marisa.oneil@latimes.com.

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