First case of West Nile virus in 7 years reported in San Francisco

A San Francisco man has been infected with the West Nile virus, marking the city’s first case in seven years.

The man was likely infected by a mosquito in the Bay Area because he has not traveled recently, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health in a health update dated Sept. 24.

“It’s kind of scary because I feel like I haven’t heard of this being a problem,” said Aubrey Ocampo, 19, an SF State student and Contra Costa County resident.

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds carrying the virus. The virus is not contagious from human to human.

“One dead bird infected with West Nile virus has been found in San Francisco, we are aware the virus has been present in the San Francisco environment, not just in surrounding counties,” said Eileen Shields, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Students are urged to take precautions during the peak season for mosquito activity in the Bay Area, which is September through mid-October because of the humidity. The increase in warm weather in San Francisco means the mosquito populations are more likely to increase.

Dawn and dusk are the prime times mosquitoes carrying the virus are active. SF State health educator Albert Angelo advises students to wear bug repellant as an added layer to protect against mosquitoes, just in case.

“My dad looks into West Nile virus so that’s why I’m aware of what’s going on, and I try and lower my chances by not going out at night when the risk of getting bitten is high,” said Zahara Bryant, a women and gender studies major from Hayward.

Cases of the West Nile virus have doubled in California in the last year.

As of Sept. 28 the California Department of Public Health reported 182 cases of West Nile virus in California, compared to 33 cases reported in September 2011.

“This is the year where everything has increased substantially as far as the number of dead birds and mosquito populations with West Nile virus,” said Jon Blegen, manager of the Solano County Mosquito Abatement District.

Symptoms of the virus include headaches, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of the virus start anywhere from three to 14 days after the victim is bitten. One in every 150 cases can lead to severe disease or death, but only 20 percent of human cases show signs of any symptoms. Most cases will improve on their own, but anyone suffering from fever, confusion or pain should seek medical help.

“Unmaintained swimming pools due to home foreclosures have become a problem statewide and can produce the types of mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus,” Blegen said. “What we are looking for are neglected pools with water turning green.”

On Sept. 10 the Solano County Public Health Department reported the first case of West Nile virus in the Bay Area. A man in his 50s was the first case since 2008. According to the California Department of Public Health, the virus has been found in all Bay Area counties, except Marin.

Sacramento County has reported 461 cases so far this year, according to The California Department of Public Health.

“The virus replicates in hot weather, such as in places like Sacramento, they are being hit hard with the virus,” Blegen said.

Many counties in the Bay Area have been doing routine foggings, including Santa Clara and Contra Costa. They have also been treating still pools of water, in response to mosquitos testing positive for West Nile virus in the area.

Foggings that have already taken place in Santa Clara County have proven to be effective, according to Jose Colome of the Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District.

“We’ve fogged twice since Aug. 10 and have put up traps to double check. We have seen an 80 percent reduction in the mosquito population since our last fogging,” Colome said.

Colome also stressed that the community be involved in combating West Nile virus by reporting any dead birds or neglected pools to the closest vector control agency in the area. Disposing of any standing water in drains near your home is ideal.

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