Get ready for return of West Nile virus |

Get ready for return of West Nile virus

Weeks of rain have left Nevada County ripe for West Nile virus, and health officials are urging residents to get ready for the mosquitos that carry the disease.

There have been no reports of West Nile virus in the county this year, but 25 dead birds tested positive for it in Nevada County last year. The virus can kill horses who are not vaccinated and leave humans seriously ill. In rare cases, it can kill those who contract the virus.

According to the California Department of Health, 27 people in California died from the virus last year. There have been no deaths reported this year, but 36 dead birds have tested positive already in counties including Placer and Sacramento.

“There are some mosquitos starting because there’s a lot of water,” said Paul Boch, Nevada County’s agriculture commissioner. “When it gets warm again, the mosquitos will come out.”

Boch said a mosquito fish giveaway will be offered Friday at the Nevada County Resource Conservation District office in Grass Valley. The fish are put in ponds and eat mosquitos for three years before they die.

Boch said there are also organic products at farm, garden and lawn centers that get rid of mosquitos naturally.

Ron Ettlin, owner of Nevada County Farm Supply in Grass Valley, said one is Mosquito Dank. “It’s like a little doughnut, you can put it in water tanks and troughs.” The device won’t hurt animals, he said.

Another product is called Microbe-Lift and can be used in ponds and lakes. “People with horses can use it. It won’t hurt them; it’s completely natural,” Ettlin said.

Mosquito fish are in the guppy family and only grow to 3 inches, according to the conservation district. The fish like water to be between 60 and 80 degrees and live in the shallow edges near shore.

To keep mosquitos away, “just remove standing water, that’s the big thing.” Boch said. Bird baths should be emptied, tarps turned over and buckets emptied.

Horse owners should have their charges vaccinated by veterinarians and treat all standing water holders. Homeowners should make sure all window and door screens are tight and holes should be fixed.

West Nile virus strikes the elderly and children harder than the rest of the population. Those going outside should use repellent, wear long sleeves and pants and avoid activities where mosquitos are present.

Free mosquito fish

Fish that eat mosquitoes and help prevent West Nile virus from spreading will be available from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Nevada County Resource Conservation District office. It is located at 113 Presley Way, Suite No. 1 in Grass Valley, across from the Nevada County Country Club golf course. For more information, call 272-3417.

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