Health officials are testing local mosquitoes and warning residents to avoid them after a Santee man becomes the first to test positive for West Nile virus in San Diego County since 2012.
The 43-year-old patient had no symptoms, but a routine blood screening from donated blood detected the virus in his system, according to county Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) officials.
The man told officials he did not recall being bitten by a mosquito recently, but he said he had been camping outside the state the week before his blood was drawn.
“Even though it’s most likely this individual acquired West Nile outside the county, we know the virus is here in San Diego County,” said County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten in a release.
Last week, a dead crow in the city of San Diego also tested positive for West Nile.
As a precaution, the county’s Department of Environmental Health Vector Control Program began inspecting possible mosquito breeding location near the man’s house. Workers have also set up mosquito monitoring traps in areas around Santee.
While West Nile is a potentially deadly disease, county health officials say 80 percent of people who are infected show no symptoms.
One in five will feel mild signs like a headache, fever, nausea, fatigue, swollen glands or skin rash. Less than 1 percent develops serious neurological complications that can be deadly, and the risk for complications rises for those with weak immune systems and people over age 50.
Last year, 15 people died from West Nile virus-related causes in California, but of the 11 cases reported so far this season, no one has died, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Officials say a typical West Nile season lasts from June to October and peaks in August and September.
To prevent catching the virus yourself, health officials recommend preventing mosquito breeding around your home by dumping out any backyard items like buckets and garbage cans that can hold water.
Protect yourself from bites by staying inside when mosquitoes are most active – between dusk and dawn – and use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of eucalyptus.
Finally, reports dead birds and green swimming pools to the Vector Control Program at 858-694-2888.