A sparrow in Lompoc has tested positive for the West Nile Virus, making for the documentation of the disease in Santa Barbara County this year. Seventeen birds have tested throughout the county in 2007. “This confirms that there is West Nile Virus activity locally and it is a reminder that we should take steps to avoid mosquito bites,” said Dr. Elliot Schulman, director of the County Public Health Department.
Since the virus was first detected in the U.S. in 1999, two humans have been confirmed as having been infected with it in Santa Barbara County. In two other cases, County residents contracted the virus while traveling elsewhere in the state. Residents in 45 of the 58 California counties have been detected with West Nile Virus.
West Nile Virus is transmitted through mosquitoes which become infected by feeding on infected birds. Humans cannot infect other humans. Most symptoms of the virus are mild, including fever and head and body aches. People with lowered immune systems and elderly people can be more adversely affected.
County health officials encourage people to reduce the risk of mosquito bites by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts outside, applying insect repellent and not spending time outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.