What Makes You a Mosquito Magnet?

Inspectors for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD) are finding a larger number of mosquitos that transmit the West Nile Virus in the Valley than in previous years.

According to Levy Sun, GLACVCD public information officer, from January through July there have been 51 samples of mosquitos that carry the virus found in Los Angeles County (through July 17), and 35 have been found in Valley cities and communities.

That compares to 11 samples found (of which seven were in the Valley) over the same period last year, and 25 samples in 2014, of which 10 were from the Valley.

“We’re definitely seeing more activity this year,” Sun said. “We have been trending lower activity from mosquitos the past couple of years, and West Nile Virus tends to be cyclical. But every couple of years we will see a spike in activity.”

Last week the district confirmed samples were found in Chatsworth, Panorama City, Reseda, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys and Woodland Hills.

“Mosquitoes and West Nile virus go hand-in-hand with the hot weather we’re experiencing,” Sun said. “We can expect more virus activity as the summer progresses.”

West Nile virus is a “bird virus” that is primarily transmitted between birds by mosquitoes. According to the district’s website the virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of a mosquito infected with West Nile virus.

One in five persons infected with West Nile virus will exhibit symptoms that can include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, or a skin rash. These symptoms can last for several weeks to months. One in 150 people infected with the virus will become severely ill. Severe symptoms include high fever, muscle weakness, neck stiffness, coma, paralysis, and possibly death.

Symptoms usually occur between five and 15 days. But people who get West Nile virus cannot transmit it to other people. Pets like cats and dogs are highly resistant to the virus.

At present, there is no vaccine to counteract or cure West Nile Virus.

He said mosquitos primarily breed in “pools of stagnant water,” that can be commonly found in pet bowls, rain barrels or other areas outside the home.

“The peak of the West Nile Virus activity tends to be from late July to November, meaning we may not have seen the worst of it yet,” Sun said.

Sun said the rise in the numbers of mosquitos carrying West Nile Virus this year can be attributed to the hot temperatures and the continued drought conditions in California. “Because of the drought, people may believe there are no standing water sources anywhere. But we’re still finding a lot of residents who have these sources in their backyards. It can be from watering yards, and creating sources they don’t know about.”

He added that Valley area residents have been purchasing rain barrels to help with water conservation, and may not realize they could be creating breeding areas for the pests.

“While we do encourage conservation, if the barrels are not maintained properly they can become a huge mosquito problem,” Sun said

He said people should protect themselves by wearing insect repellant outdoors, and by dumping or draining any unnecessary standing water around your property. Residents should also make sure windows and screens do not have holes or other “entry points” for mosquitos.

For more information, call the GLACVCD at (562) 944-9656, or visit www.ReportMosquitoes.org.