Spraying Targets First West Nile Virus Found This Year in LA County

The virus was found a month earlier this year than in 2012

Vector control crews were expected to spray for a third and final time in the early morning hours Friday in hope of eliminating the spread of West Nile virus found in the Los Angeles Harbor Area.

The Greater Los Angeles County Vector District found the virus in mosquitos in three of its traps -- two in Machado Lake at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park in Harbor City and one in a neighborhood north of the park.

“This is a reminder that West Nile virus continues to be a problem here in Los Angeles County,” said Susanne Kluh, director of scientific-technical services for the district, when the samples were announced on May 23. “We can anticipate more activity as the season progresses.”

The district is one of five in LA County that works to control insects that can transmit disease or create a public health problem. It covers a swath of the county stretching from Santa Clarita to the Harbor Area and Whittier.

The spraying is targeting Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park, a 231-acre LA city park with a lake, ball fields, trails and bird-watching spots.

Park-goers on Thursday reacted to signs warning of the virus, which were posted throughout the park this week.

"Are you serious? Oh my god," said Pamela Allswang, a registered nurse who works across the street from the park. "I'm totally shocked. This is scary. I bring my grandkids; they play here all the time."

The finding of the virus came approximately a month earlier than usual, according to a spokesman with the vector control district. The first West Nile virus positive result for 2012 was found in June in Encino.

No human cases have been reported so far in Southern California; only one case in humans has been reported so far this year -- a fatality in Sacramento County, according to state records.

Abatement crews have been spraying a fog treatment locally overnight since Tuesday.

"We are aiming for a reduction in adult numbers," said Steven Vetrone, vector ecologist for the county. "Tonight will be our third and final night for those applications."

While the mosquitos are most active during the dusk and dawn hours, it is important to wear insect repellant throughout the day, said Vetrone.

West Nile virus is transmitted to people and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. One in five persons infected with the virus will exhibit flu-like symptoms while one in 150 people infected will actually require hospitalization, according to the county.

"Many times, they don't even exhibit symptoms at all," said Levy Sun, public information officer for the L.A. County Vector Control District. "But those that do, we recommend taking the necessary precautions and visiting their primary care physician."

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