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Virus draws near

John HartMali Dyck, assistant trainer at the Blue Fountain Farm in southern Nevada County, works Thursday with Sky, owned by Elisabeth Brinton. Each of the farm's 70 horses has been vaccinated for West Nile Virus, a confirmed case of which was identified in neighboring Placer County on Thursday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

West Nile virus reached Nevada County’s doorstep this week, when it was confirmed Thursday that a bird in Auburn had been infected with the disease.

Nevada County West Nile Virus Task Force members Thursday said no cases have been found here yet in birds, horses or humans.

Despite the recent resignation of county Community Health Department Director Hank Foley, members of the task force he created said they are still ready to act should cases begin cropping up here. Members again encouraged residents to get rid of standing water and use repellent to combat the mosquitoes that spread the virus.



Assistant Health Officer Dr. Michael Mulligan of Placer County said the Auburn bird was a western scrub jay collected dead July 22 and shipped to the state Department of Health Services. The state confirmed the bird had West Nile, Mulligan said.

There have been no human or horse cases in Placer County yet, “but there will be more to come,” Mulligan said.




The state health department also reported 17 new bird cases in Butte

County and three more in Sacramento County during the past week. Most of the rest of the cases and the upswing in virus activity have been in Southern California, where two deaths have been reported.

West Nile can be fatal to humans, but to fewer than one percent who get it. Only 20 percent bitten by an infected mosquito get the virus and there is no human vaccine, according to health authorities.

But there is a vaccine for horses and task force member Dr. John Shaver said it is not too late to have horses immunized. It is important because 30 percent of the horses that do get West Nile die from it, according to the state department of health.

“They should contact their (veterinarian) for information and the vaccine,” Shaver said. “For horses not immunized, it’s important they get two shots, the initial shot and a booster in three to four weeks.”

Immunity will not set in until after the second shot, Shaver said. “The UC Davis vet school is recommending six-month boosters after the initial series of two,” the local veterinarian said.

Each shot should cost less than $25 and is well worth the protection, Shaver said.

Ed Scofield, CEO at the Nevada County Fair, said employees will be looking for standing water to eliminate before the fair opens next Wednesday. County environmental health also will make a mosquito sweep for the large annual event, Scofield said.

Environmental Health director and virus task force member Larry Sage said the county has been sending dead birds into the state for West Nile testing.

“But we haven’t gotten any positives so far and no cases in the county,” Sage said.

Longs Drug spokeswoman Phyllis Proffer said earlier this week that sales of insect repellent at the chain’s California stores was four times as high as this time last year.

Grass Valley Longs Drug manager Jerry Eilers said he is sure he is selling more this year compared to last, “but we haven’t run any numbers.”

Eilers said repellent products with DEET that did not move well several years ago because of environmental concerns are now selling briskly because health officials are urging to use it in the battle against West Nile.

This summer, “it has to have DEET in it or they won’t buy it,” Eilers said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined DEET is not harmful when used by humans in an appropriate manner. Lab animals have not died from DEET after getting daily doses over most of a lifetime, according to the EPA.

At Kmart in Grass Valley, insecticides have been placed at the visible ends of aisles, which in itself will increase sales, said manager Mark Seymour.

But Seymour said he cannot document any large local sales increases. He did see one last year while working in a Greeley, Colo., Kmart after 61 people died in that state.

“When that happened, people became much more preventive,” Seymour said.

The Associated Press

contributed to this story.

How to avoid West Nile virus

– Wear repellent with DEET in it, and wear long sleeves at night.

– Mosquito-proof your home; get rid of all standing water in the yard, and install/repair screens.

– Report dead birds to the Nevada County Community Health Department

For more information:

– Contact the county health department at 265-1450.

– On mynevadacounty. com, click on “West Nile Virus Information.”


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