July 24, 2006
Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or Jaclyn Loveless, 661/654-2138, email@example.com
California State University, Bakersfield is taking extra precautions following confirmation that a bird on campus died of West Nile virus.
A Northern Harrier, a hawk-like bird, held at CSUB's Facility for Animal Care and Treatment became sick earlier this month and soon died, according to Marlene Benton, FACT coordinator. She said usually when a bird contracts West Nile and begins to show symptoms, it's usually dead within a matter of hours. The bird was taken to Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District, which confirmed the bird had West Nile Virus and alerted Benton last Thursday.
The West Nile virus, deadly to birds and animals, is carried by a mosquito. According to the state Department of Health Services, mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds.
"While Kern Mosquito and Vector Control generally inspects and treats our ponds and grounds on a weekly basis, we requested the agency make a special inspection of our grounds to insure there's no problem with our facilities," said Carl Waite, director of CSUB Facilities Management.
Waite said that generally Mosquito and Vector Control stocks CSUB's ponds with tiny mosquito fish that eat mosquito larvae as fast as they hatch from eggs.
"We also actively inspect the campus' irrigation system five days a week," Waite said. "If we find an area where pooling occurs from a broken pipe or sprinkler head that could lead to formation of mosquito habitat, we take care of that immediately."
Waite added that mosquito season generally runs from May through October. "We make every effort to eliminate mosquito habitat on campus," he said. "While we can't control the virus' spread, we are doing things to minimize its impact."
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 might 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 fee for that."
He emphasized that the risk of serious illness to humans is low. "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 – if they experience them at all. 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) 654-2394, or the Kern County Health Department.
More detailed information regarding the West Nile Virus can be found at www.co.kern.ca.us/health/WestNileVirus.pdf