Culver City Observer -

By Lynne Bronstein
Observer Reporter 

Here’s The Latest On West Nile Virus


September 25, 2012

City Council Receives Update

Culver City residents have heard that West Nile Virus is active in the Culver City area. The unusually hot and muggy summer weather has triggered a rise in the positive indicators of the disease (dead birds, dead squirrels, sentinel flocks, and mosquitoes) compared to 2011.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, at the request of Council member Jim Clarke, Elena Sweda Neff and Robert Saviskas of the Los Angeles County West Vector and Vector-Borne Disease Control District gave an update on West Nile Virus.

The good news: although there are more positive indicators than in 2011, 2012 has seen a drop in the number of reported human cases of West Nile. Last year Los Angeles County had 63 human cases and four deaths. This year, there have been 25 human cases and so far, no deaths.

West Nile is transmitted by bites from mosquitoes infected with the virus. The mosquitoes are infected when they feed on birds that have the virus.

“If someone has been bitten, West Vector gets a call,” said Saviskas. “They will go to the sites in that area and look for indicators.

“If you get bitten, call West Vector.”

Saviskas advised residents to make sure there is no standing water around their properties. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water (found in flowerpots, old car tires, rain gutters, and pet bowls).

Residents should maintain their swimming pools, spas, and ponds (pools can be covered when not in use). For those who have ornamental ponds on their property, there is a fish known as the gambusia or “mosquito fish” that eats mosquito larvae. Mosquito fish can be picked up for free by calling West Vector at 310.915.7370.

Saviskas also advised residents to mosquito-proof their homes with tight-fitting screens and to use mosquito repellent when outside (DEET, picaradin, IR3535, and oil of eucalyptus are the longest lasting and most effective).

Mosquitoes tend to bite at dawn and at dusk, these times being genetically programmed for the insects.

Jeff Cooper had a question: “What about sitting outside on warm nights? Should we use repellent if it’s later than dusk?”

Saviskas noted that dusk is the riskiest time for mosquito bites but caution is advisable, especially for older people (over 60) and those with pre-existing conditions.

Council members wanted to know what the symptoms of West Nile are.

Saviskas said there are different stages of the disease in humans. The symptoms of “West Nile Fever” are similar to the flu—headaches, tired feeling, body aches, high fever, a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. These symptoms occur two or three days after infection and may last for several days or several weeks.

Symptoms of “West Nile Neuro-Invasive Disease” are more severe and can include severe headaches, stiff neck, high fever, stupor, disorientation, tremors, “Bell’s Palsy,” paralysis, and coma, with long-term brain damage a possibility. In some cases, death occurs.

“The disease cannot be passed from human to human,” Saviskas added.

People who experience symptoms should contact a health care provider immediately.

The public is encouraged to report any dead birds or other dead animals seen in the area. Dead birds can be reported to the hotline at 1.877.WNV BIRD (1.877.968.2473). Dead birds must have been dead for less than 24 hours in order to be tested for West Nile Virus.

Birds that have decomposed or are otherwise not in a condition to be tested can be disposed of in regular trash by taking these precautions: 1). Take a plastic garbage bag and insert your hand in the open end, 2). Grab the dead bird and pull it into the bag using an “outside-to-inside” pulling motion, 3). Tie off the bag with the bird inside and place in regular trash for disposal.

Despite the grimness of some of the facts, Council member Mehaul O’Leary saw the good side of the West Vector report.

“Considering that 63 cases and four deaths happened in L.A. County last year and this year, 25 cases and no deaths, we must be doing something right,” said O’Leary.

For additional information on West Nile Virus and the L.A. County West Vector and Vector-Borne Disease Control District, visit the District’s web site at or contact Executive Director Robert Saviskas at


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