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Virus found in Claremont chicken coop, no human infections

San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control is putting locals on heightened alert after the West Nile Virus was found in a chicken coop located in northeast Claremont late last week.

Vector Control keeps 10 coops throughout the San Gabriel Valley where chickens are tested every 10 days to 2 weeks for antibodies associated with the West Nile Virus. On Thursday, September 12, at the coop located north of the Claremont Colleges, one chicken tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus.

The Claremont finding is just one of several cases of West Nile confirmed in chicken coops in the San Gabriel Valley within the past month. Other confirmed cases of the potentially harmful virus were found in Arcadia, Irwindale and Monterey Park.

An estimated 74 human infections of West Nile have been reported in LA County this year alone, 12 of which were found in the San Gabriel Valley, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.  While no human cases have been reported in the city of Claremont at this time, Vector officials remain concerned because not every case results in West Nile neuroinvasive disease. Only one in an estimated 150 infections results in severe illness, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Further, Kenn Fujioka, district manager for the San Gabriel Mosquito & Vector Control District, believes it possible that 1300 cases of West Nile have gone untested and unreported.

“This level of under-reporting leaves residents with the mistaken impression that West Nile Virus is not a big problem so they do not take these warnings seriously,” Mr. Fujioka said in a statement. “Any patient or their family members would testify that getting sick from West Nile virus is not a trivial issue."

Vector employees have increase inspections throughout the San Gabriel Valley, Mr. Fujioka notes, in hopes of locating standing water for infected mosquitos. Locals are also asked to take the necessary precautions to prevent the virus’s spread, especially in the months of August and September when West Nile transmission is believed to be most prevalent.

“West Nile is continuously present throughout the summer here in southern California; the mosquitos are more active, the virus multiplies more quickly when it is warm, ” Mr. Fujioka said. “We don’t have a big staff and we need the public to modify their behavior so that risk is reduced, whether making sure screens are intact to maintaining swimming pools to making sure their gutters aren’t collecting standing water.”

Small, forgotten pots or nooks in residents’ backyards are also a common source of standing water that often goes undetected. As Vector employees inspect well-established sources of standing water, residents are encouraged to do their part to not only prevent the virus from spreading, but from contracting the virus themselves. Mr. Fujioka encourages San Gabriel Valley residents to avoid outdoor activity between the hours of dawn and dusk and to wear light-colored, tightly-weeved long sleeves and pants and repellent when outdoors during those hours. Candles or ‘zappers’ should not be relied on to avoid mosquito bites.

Residents who come across dead birds, especially crows, are asked to report the incident to the local Vector Control district, as birds are prone to contracting the West Nile Virus. For reports of dead birds, or requests for help in removing standing water, contact the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control at 626-814-9466 or www.sgvmoquito.org.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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