23 others counties in the state have already detected the mosquito born illness and so far, one human case has been reported in California. But, for the valley West Nile season is getting somewhat of a delayed start this year, thanks to a very dry spring and an extremely hot couple of days.
Greg White is a Vector Ecologist with the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District. He describes how they found the first trace of West Nile this year, "Every other week we go out and sample our sentinel chickens. We take a blood sample and then send that off to the state for testing to see if those chickens have any antibodies to West Nile Virus or other viruses we're interested in and we just got results back on Tuesday that two chickens from one flock were positive for West Nile Virus."
The Mosquito and Vector Control District has eleven sentinel chicken coops to test in the valley. Not surprisingly, the coop that housed the two infected chickens is located just north of the Salton Sea. The only silver lining is the virus has yet to be found in actual mosquitoes.
White explains, "Normally we're one of the first places in the state where West Nile Virus is detected in both mosquitoes and chickens. So this year the virus has been found in several other places throughout the state and so it's unusual that we haven't found it yet."
While the number of cases in the valley are down so far this year, mosquito populations aren't.
"We've been slightly above average this year," White says. "Early in March and April are when our mosquitoes peak, and that's when the numbers are the highest. However the virus usually doesn't come up until the summer. And that has to do with the temperature rising helps the virus replicate faster and is better for the virus."
The above average numbers could lead to more infections if people aren't careful. The best way to avoid mosquitoes is to stay indoors during dawn and dusk, peak hours for mosquitoes to feed. Also, doing all you can to prevent breeding in your area.
The best way to help control the mosquito population is to eliminate or report standing water or, water that last for more than three days. It's in those warm shallow waters that mosquitoes are able to breed.
If you have to be outside use a repellant with deet in it, wear long sleeves if a all possible, and set up a fan. Wind also helps to keep the mosquitoes away and if you feel you may be infected, consult a physician immediately.
We asked Greg to describe the symptoms for us, "Unfortunately it's really hard to pinpoint because it's generally flu like symptoms," White says. "But then things can progress to more up your neck, more of a severe headache, are some of the common things."
Vector control is asking that if you see any standing water in your area, that includes neglected pools, you give them a call at (888)343-9399. They even offer free mosquito fish to those who need them. You can also submit service requests on their website.