Sept 15, 2004
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456 or mstepanovich@csub.edu

California State University, Bakersfield is taking extra precautions following the discovery of a dead bird on campus that was confirmed positive for the West Nile virus.

“While the Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District inspects and treats our ponds and grounds on a weekly basis, we requested the agency make a special inspection of our grounds to insure our facilities are being appropriately treated,” said Kellie Garcia, CSUB human resources director.

The West Nile virus, deadly to birds and animals, is carried by a mosquito. Pat Jacobs of CSUB’s Facilities Management department said Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District had been asked to treat campus ponds and moist lawn areas, places that could be mosquito-breeding areas.

“The campus has actively responded to reports of standing water and taken steps to eliminate it,” Jacobs said. “If someone sees standing water or discovers a dead bird, please contact Facilities Management.”

He added that “Vector Control has confirmed that our areas look good, and they will continue their weekly inspections.”

Dr. Oscar Rico, director of the CSUB Student Health Center, said infection occurs through the bite of a mosquito carrying the virus. The most effective method of protection against the disease is to avoid being bitten, he said. Long-sleeved shirts, pants and insect repellant are effective means of mosquito-bite prevention, he said.

Rico said that members of the campus community who feel they may have West Nile virus may come to the Health Center for an examination. “We send blood samples to the Kern County Health Department for analysis, and there is a $43 fee for that. The problem is that once the diagnosis is confirmed the illness is usually over. Most people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms and will not become sick.”

Rico said that the disease is treated “like any other flu. Elderly people are more susceptible to it, but it’s not that severe of an infection in an adult. We treat it with symptomatic therapy, the basic things ordinarily associated with flu – ensuring the patient has plenty of liquids and gets plenty of rest.”

He said that once a West Nile virus-carrying mosquito bites a person, there’s an incubation period of between three days and two weeks before the person starts experiencing symptoms. Those symptoms are “like the onset of flu – nausea, general malaise, headache, that sort of thing. The symptoms last three to six days. Less than 1 percent of individuals infected with the West Nile Virus have to be hospitalized.”

Those with concerns or questions about West Nile virus may call the Student Health Center at (661) 664-2394.

The campus will continue to take an aggressive role in eliminating/treating areas of potential breeding, Garcia said.

More detailed information regarding the West Nile Virus can be found at www.co.kern.ca.us/health/WestNileVirus.pdf