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Coachella man, Mecca woman treated for West Nile Virus

Riverside County’s first West Nile virus infections of this year were confirmed today by the County Department of Public Health.

According to agency officials, a 65-year-old Mecca woman and a 71-year-old Coachella man were treated in recent weeks. No additional details were provided.

“We read the news today…it’s surprising that it’s coming from Mecca because it’s a small community,” said Abraham Diaz, who works in a clinic in Mecca.

Riverside University Health System Disease Control specialist Barbara Cole said the patients are expected to recover.

“While West Nile is rarely life-threatening, it can occasionally be serious,” county Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser said. “Unlike the common cold, which is easily transmitted, the West Nile virus can only be spread by mosquito bites, and there are easy steps to take to reduce your risk of getting bitten.”

Steve Harmann, an infection preventionist at Desert Regional Medical Center told News Channel 3’s Madison Weil, “There is no vaccine for the virus and the symptoms should or eventually resolve but it can take weeks or months for those symptoms to resolve. You may feel quite fatigued during that time as well.”

According to the County and the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District, the best ways to protect yourself are to stay away from mosquito-prone areas, and to get rid of any stagnant or sitting water — mosquitos breed in even the smallest amounts of still water. Also fixing any broken screen windows — treating your clothes with a spray repellant — and wearing protective clothing can help…

According to the California Department of Public Health, 45 human WNV cases have been recorded statewide in the last couple of months.

Two virus-related deaths have been documented — one in neighboring Imperial County, the other in Fresno County, officials said.

In 2018, 15 human cases were reported in Riverside County, compared to 33 in 2017. No resident has died from the virus since 2015, according to the health department.

Vector control officials have netted a number of mosquito samples in eastern county areas, mostly around the Coachella Valley, where the virus was present. Mosquito surveillance maps are available here: http://www.rivcoph.org/Home/WestNileMap.aspx .

Mosquitoes typically become carriers of West Nile virus after feeding on an infected bird and can then spread the potentially lethal strain to animals and humans. Those at greatest risk include seniors and individuals with compromised immune systems.

Symptoms may never materialize, but can include fever, headache, nausea, body aches, skin rashes and swollen lymph nodes.

Mosquito season in Southern California generally spans May to October. To reduce exposure to WNV, residents are urged to:

— spend as little time as possible outdoors at dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes are generally on the move;
— wear pants and long-sleeved shirts during outdoor activity;
— use insect repellent;
— ensure door and window screens are fitted properly to keep bugs out; and
— get rid of standing water, aside from pools properly treated with chemicals.

Anyone with concerns about WNV, mosquitoes, neglected pools or standing water can contact the Riverside County Vector Control office at 951-766-9454. More information is also available at http://www.rivcoeh.org/Programs/vector .

KESQ News Team

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