A 60-year-old woman is the first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus in Riverside County this year, said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer. The individual, who was hospitalized and is now recovering at home, lives in southwest Riverside County.

On July 22, the state confirmed that mosquitoes collected from several locations in the Nuevo area, and two locations in San Jacinto, tested positive for West Nile virus. The samples were collected on July 16 from locations at the Nuevo Fire Station; near the San Jacinto River, north and south of Ramona Expressway; and the Eastern Municipal Water District wetlands and district ponds in San Jacinto.

Health officials emphasized that the risk of serious illness to humans is low. Most individuals infected with the virus will not experience any illness. Elderly individuals and those with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk for serious illness.

The virus is transmitted to humans and animals through a mosquito bite. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds.

The Department of Environmental Health also received confirmation last week that a dead crow in the city of Banning and a sentinel chicken at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area both tested positive for West Nile virus antibodies. Certain species of birds, such as crows and raptors, seem more susceptible to the virus while others such as chickens, sparrows and finches react with antibodies without showing physical signs of infection.

In 2012, 19 human cases were confirmed in the county with no deaths from the illness since 2008. It is not unusual for mosquitos and birds in parts of Riverside County to test positive for the virus, especially during the summer. In 2012, 133 mosquito samples and 63 sentinel chickens tested positive for the virus.

Individuals can reduce their risk of mosquito-borne diseases by taking these precautions:

    • Avoid spending time outside when mosquitoes are most active, especially at dawn and dusk.
    • When outdoors, wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and other protective clothing.
    • Apply insect repellent according to label instructions.
    • Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
    • Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property that can support mosquito breeding.
    • Contact the local mosquito and vector control agency if a significant mosquito problem occurs where you live or work. Idyllwild’s local agency is Riverside County Vector Control Program, 800 South Sandersen Ave., Hemet, CA 92545, 951-766-9454.

The Department of Environmental Health’s Vector Control Program, local mosquito and vector control districts and other state and local agencies have established a surveillance program to monitor for the virus in Riverside County.

Anyone who becomes ill after exposure to mosquitoes should contact their health care provider. The Disease Control Office can be reached at 951-358-5107 for more information on West Nile Virus.

Information about WNV is available at www.westnile.ca.gov/ or www.rivco-diseasecontrol.org/Services/WestNileVirus.aspx.

Dead birds can be reported on the state’s website or by calling toll-free 1-877-WNV-BIRD (1-877-968-2473).