San Diego County officials announced this week the first detection of West Nile virus of the year in a dead red-tailed hawk found in Valley Center. This prompted officials to remind the public they should protect themselves from mosquitoes and follow the County’s “Prevent, Protect, Report” guidelines year-round.

Red-tailed hawk Image/edbo23
Red-tailed hawk

West Nile virus has been found naturally in the county environment since it arrived in 2003. Birds and animals can become infected and carry it. Native Culex mosquitoes can then pass it to people if they feed on the blood of an infected animal and then a person’s.

They offer the following measures to prevent mosquito breeding and bites:

  • Dump out or remove any item inside or outside of homes that can hold water, such as plant saucers, rain gutters, buckets, garbage cans, toys, old tires, and wheelbarrows. Mosquito fish, available for free by contacting the Vector Control Program, may be used to control mosquito breeding in backyard water sources such as unused swimming pools, ponds, fountains and horse troughs.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito-borne illnesses by wearing long sleeves and pants or use repellent when outdoors. Use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Make sure screens on windows and doors are in good condition and secured to keep insects out.

In 2016, 22 county residents tested positive for West Nile virus and two died. County Vector Control teams also found 266 dead birds that tested positive for the virus, as well as 99 batches of mosquitoes, nine sentinel chickens and one horse. Statewide, 436 Californians tested positive for West Nile virus in 2016 and 19 people died.