West Nile claims first Fresno County victim in seven years, as another mosquito-borne illness is detected


Right now, the public health department is tracking 26 cases of West Nile Virus

FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) — For the first time in seven years, the West Nile Virus has claimed a life in Fresno County. With more mosquito-borne illnesses popping up, multiple county agencies are urging the public to do their part to help keep these diseases in-check.

The public health department learned of the death Wednesday. This year’s round of West Nile Virus was first detected back in June. The disease is most serious in people over 50 and those with secondary medical conditions — like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Right now, the public health department is tracking 26 cases of West Nile Virus.

Typically, symptoms don’t show up, according to Fresno County Department of Public Health educator Leticia Berber. However, flu-like symptoms may arise.

One thing to differentiate West Nile Virus from other illnesses is that a rash will appear on your stomach and your back, Berber said. But the worst thing about the disease? There’s no cure.

“The only thing that exists is prevention,” Berber said.

Another mosquito-borne illness with no cure is St. Louis encephalitis, which was also confirmed to the public health department Wednesday. This disease attacks the nervous system and can also be deadly.

Berber said symptoms for this include headaches, muscle stiffness, body aches and having no energy. The disease is very rare, however.

Ryan McNeil, the district manager for the Fresno Mosquito & Vector Control District, said his staff has been combing neighborhoods for any standing water.

“We look at everything from storm drains, utility vaults and green pools,” he said. “Yard drains are a major source with the Aedes aegypti mosquito.”

McNeil adds the Aedes aegypti mosquito is the vector for yellow fever, dengue and Zika. It’s been in the county for the last five or six years, but no cases of these diseases have been recorded in 2019 so far.

Stephanie Garrigus lives in the Old Fig Garden area, which is an area McNeil said is known for many mosquitoes to breed in. Garrigus said her family is diligent.

“My husband is really on top of things. He checks our water constantly and he’s always making sure there’s no standing water in the area,” she said.

People like the Garrigus gamily is what McNeil said will ultimately help keep mosquito-borne illnesses in-check.

“Our main concern — along with all the treatment that we do — is to have the public really take care of their own yards and homes,” he said. “That’s the only way we’ll be able to get rid of those things.”

Part of the ongoing investigation into these diseases is determining if the patients caught them while traveling.

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