The positive identification of dead birds and mosquito samples with West Nile Virus has local officials reminding residents that it still remains a threat.
A handful of people took advantage of the recent free giveaway of mosquitofish, hosted by the San Joaquin County Mosquito and Vector Control District at the Escalon Community Center, one of several distributions offered countywide.
“We had six people – it was kind of like that all over the place,” said district spokesman Aaron Devencenzi of the Escalon turnout. “I thought we would get more out there, though we did get more than last year.”
The free giveaway of mosquitofish – which can be used to control mosquito populations – was done at multiple locations around the county. Devencenzi said the typical amount given away is 15 mosquitofish per person.
Figures show the largest turnout for the giveaway was in Stockton, with 42 people, followed by Lodi, 29; Manteca, 15; and Lathrop, Ripon, Tracy and Escalon with six each. The mosquitofish are designed to help prevent mosquito development and are most useful when placed in ornamental ponds, neglected swimming pools and animal water troughs.
“Overall we were able to get mosquitofish to 110 people,” Devencenzi said, noting that hosting giveaways in each community made it a cost-effective process for the district and he was generally pleased with the number of residents that took advantage of the giveaway.
Though numbers have dwindled over the past few years for the mosquitofish giveaway, Devencenzi said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, noting that the mosquitofish people obtained a couple of years ago are likely still alive and continuing to do their job.
“Also, people may be keeping things drier now; they know to get rid of standing water,” Devencenzi explained. “And with the drought, if they have a fish pond, maybe they are not filling it this year.”
Over the past couple of weeks, Devencenzi added, 25 mosquito samples showed positive for the virus, those samples collected primarily in the Delta area. No positive mosquito pools have been found in Escalon, and this area has already had some spraying done in an effort to control the mosquito population.
The most recent reported cases also included two dead birds testing positive for the virus in Manteca, one in Lodi.
Devencenzi indicated that the latest samples from the Delta area near Stockton showed a historically high rate of disease, with more than the normal percentage of mosquitoes testing positive.
Cooler weather, however, helps keep mosquito activity down. As the weather warms back up, Devencenzi said, residents should continue to take steps to limit their exposure to the virus, by using insect repellant, keeping arms and legs covered when outdoors and limiting outdoor activity at dawn and dusk, the prime time for mosquitoes.
“You always want to take precautions,” Devencenzi said.