Residents urged to protect themselves against West Nile virus

August 2, 2021 /

The first case of West Nile virus (WNV) in Kern County was  confirmed by the Kern County Public Health Services Department on June 9th.

WNV is a rare RNA virus that is transmitted primarily by mosquitoes. The virus has been around for more than 60 years and is most commonly transmitted during the start of summer through fall as warmer weather accelerates the incubation period and increases the mosquito’s biting rate.

Symptoms of the West Nile virus’s incubation period include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes a skin rash. While many mosquito-borne illnesses such as WNV cause only mild symptoms in most people, the infection can cause severe illness and even death in rare cases.

A Kern County teacher, who contracted the virus at the age of 17, recalls “not being able to move due to extreme fatigue.” She also recounts the moments when her symptoms worsened to “sharp lower spine pain which led to paralysis from the hip down” and an “itchy rash from the scalp all the way to the arms.” For the teacher, the paralysis lasted for about two weeks while the entire recovery took about two and a half months.

“West Nile virus is a seasonal threat to our community and we ask everyone to do their part and take action to minimize standing water sources,” says Brynn Carrigan, Director of Kern County Public Health. “Working together, we can help reduce the impact of this disease.”

The characteristics of Kern County are well situated for mosquito growth so taking precautions is vital.

Reduce mosquito breeding sites:
• Remove standing or stagnant water from containers such as flowerpots, fountains, birdbaths, pet bowls, and wading pools.
• Clean/scrub containers that collect water weekly to remove any remaining eggs.
• Maintain swimming pools in working condition.
• Stock garden ponds with fish that eat mosquito larvae.
• Report areas of mosquito infestation to your local vector control district.

Decrease your risk of mosquito-transmitted infections:
• Avoid mosquitoes and mosquito-infested areas at all times of the day.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
• Apply mosquito repellant to exposed skin when outdoors.
• Ensure doors and windows have screens in good repair to keep mosquitoes out of your home.

Further information can be found here. Additionally, Kern County’s Department of Public Health urges individuals to contact your local mosquito and vector control agency if there is a significant mosquito problem where you live, work, or play.