West Nile Virus case confirmed

Mosquito sucking blood, extreme close-up with high magnification

Mosquito sucking blood, extreme close-up with high magnification

The state confirmed a human case of West Nile Virus contracted in Churchill County.

The local patient was treated and has since been released from Banner Churchill Community Hospital.

The hospital’s Dr. Tedd McDonald, chair of the Churchill County Board of Health, said a couple cases showing signs of West Nile Virus and encephalitis (brain inflammation caused by a virus; symptoms include headache, neck pain, drowsiness, nausea and fever) have been confirmed. But he said only the one case confirmed by the state could be localized to originating in the county.

“We don’t have a real specific area, because this patient has been in a lot of different parts of the county,” McDonald said, mentioning the patient being near irrigation canals and out to Lahontan Reservoir. “The person has not left the county.”

McDonald said the other individuals to his understanding at this point have been to numerous places so it’s difficult to pinpoint.

“All I know for sure is there is one confirmed case,” he said.

McDonald explained the state goes through a process to confirm these types of cases including interviewing patients with questions such as where have they traveled, reviewing patient history and serum testing. He said the one patient resulted in a call from the state that the individual had most likely had exposure in Churchill County.

The board of health met Tuesday afternoon and approved a letter of support for the county and mosquito abatement to apply for more resources and federal funding because of the desired preparedness based on initial planning as well as continued efforts and results.

Nancy Upham, manager of the Mosquito, Vector and Weed Control District Board, shared in a previous Lahontan Valley News article that the record snow pack in the Sierras poses a concern beyond flood mitigation — more standing, warm water spread throughout the county means more mosquitoes bred, which contract the virus after feeding on the higher population as well of disease-carrying birds.

Upham added the “human, horse or other mammal is considered a terminal, dead-end host; unlike birds, they are unable to develop high levels of virus in their bloodstream and cannot pass the virus on to other biting mosquitoes.”

The birds are the problem, Upham said during this week’s meeting. She noted in her article how the lifecycle is tricky; mosquitoes that feed on a disease-hosting bird lay eggs that will grow to feed on the same bird population.

“That’s the dynamic we’re trying to deal with,” she said, adding the heat of the problem will occur in mid-September and be an ongoing issue “pretty much into October” until the virus-carrying birds migrate away — but the problem will affect the area for years to come, she said.

The district is continuing to treat larvae (juvenile mosquitoes) and adult mosquitoes with safe-to-humans ground and aerial chemicals as well as test mosquito sample pools for viruses. Upham also said the increase in dragonflies is good since they are predators to mosquitoes and can hatch since the abatement does not affect them.

The Centers for Disease Control say “no vaccine or specific antiviral treatments for West Nile virus infection are available. In severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication and nursing care.” For more information, visit www.CDC.gov/WestNile.

If residents within Churchill County have questions more questions about mosquito control or mosquito-borne illnesses, call 775-423-2828; leave a message with your name, address and phone number (calls will be logged as service requests for staff to treat any issues found). Other questions can be submitted to ccmosquito@cccomm.net.

“With encephalitis coming in we’re all a little on higher alert,” McDonald said, adding the hospital and private practices are aware and watching more closely. “We know what we’re treating; we go ahead and treat it. And we want to verify what we have.”

The county and healthcare providers encourage residents to wear mosquito repellent, protective clothing and remove nearby standing water if possible.

“I don’t think we’re going to have an epidemic,” McDonald said. “Just my suspicion.”

McDonald added he thinks it smart to follow in the vein of what was done regarding flood preparation: be proactive.

During the health board meeting, Upham also gave a mosquito mitigation update, noting the district is following its original plan but “everything has got to be above and beyond an average year.”

The district is looking to increase its equipment and testing capabilities. She explained how they trap and test mosquito pools and, if positive, treat the area appropriately before repeating the process to hopefully achieve negative results. She said the district performs larvacide on the ground and adulticide by aerial fogging.

Upham likened the process to putting out small-range fires, working away from the ground level and when the environment becomes extremely hot, bringing in air support.

The district has put larvacide on more than 6,100 acres and adulticide on more than 81,000 acres. The maximum done since 2010 was 2,500 for larva and 20,000 for adult. Upham said they would do 10,000 acres a week if necessary in going with their original plan. She added $93,000 has been spent aerially.

Upham said the county meets all the requests to receive state and federal funding.

“It truly has been throughout the county,” she said of the positive virus results in mosquito pools. “We’re going to continue doing what we do regardless of cost.”

The district’s Quinn Nuffer said this year’s mosquito count is 15- or 20-fold more than normal.

“We’ve already treated more this year than the last three years combined,” Nuffer said.

Upham said the district has been working hard to provide all the updates and paperwork to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to cover the upward of $800,000 not in their budget. She said the district also could tap its emergency contingency fund.

Mike Heidemann, county emergency manager, also have a flood mitigation update and discussed with the board the water flow to date. It was said the flow should be well over 800,000 acre-feet of water by now with approximately 600,000 acre-feet having flowed through Churchill County and 300,000 behind the Lahontan Dam.

“The speculation is it could be a million by the time it’s all gone through, so quite a year,” said commissioner and health board member Pete Olsen.

The district and board said they will continue to update the public and post information on the county website.


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