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West Nile worries winding down


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The cooler weather brings good news and bad news in the battle against mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus.

The good: Officials this week have seen a decline in mosquitoes and infection rates among the insects.

The bad: People in the next several weeks can expect more close encounters with mosquitoes as they search for winter shelter.

Mosquito abatement districts in the Northern San Joaquin Valley are coming off a rough month in which the number of infected people shot up and the districts scrambled to monitor and control mosquitoes.

In August, the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District received 130 calls from people reporting mosquito problems or requesting service, said General Manager Jerry Davis. Forty calls is normal for August.

Davis said the mosquito activity has cooled down in the past week. "Our (mosquito) populations are continuing to drop, so it is looking good," he said, adding that the district is getting fewer calls from residents reporting dead birds.

Aaron Devencenzi, education director for the San Joaquin County Mosquito and Vector Control District, said Thursday the infection rate among mosquitoes is down in that county. District personnel found no virus in mosquito groups tested this week, he said.

The San Joaquin district has also noted a decline in mosquitoes, probably due to control operations, he said.

Despite the recent downturn, people are still at risk of being infected with the West Nile illness. "This might just be a small break and it will pick up again," Devencenzi said.

As of Thursday, the virus transmitted by mosquito bites had infected 63 people in Stanislaus County, two in Merced County and 27 in San Joaquin County. Of those, 10 in San Joaquin County were new cases, including two adult men with neuroinvasive disease. One was hospitalized. Others infected included five women and two men with West Nile fever and a woman with no symptoms.

Cooler weather affects mosquitoes because they are coldblooded creatures. The adults don't bite as often. The females continue to lay eggs but it takes longer for the larvae to hatch and mature, Davis said. In cooler weather, common household mosquitoes become attracted to homes and try to get inside.

"That could happen especially if we get a light rain," Davis said. "If (district residents) see mosquitoes around their homes, they can call us and we will take a look."

The district, which includes Turlock and other communities south of the Tuolumne River and west of the San Joaquin River, does spot spraying if mosquitoes are found in large numbers near homes. It does not spray inside homes. Davis said people can also purchase over-the-counter insecticides to use indoors and outdoors.

The Turlock district continued to spray for pockets of mosquitoes near Denair and in east Turlock, from Berkeley and Monte Vista avenues south along the city limit to Harding Avenue. The district also scheduled spraying Thursday night for Monterey Tract, an area north of Hughson, near Ceres and on the east edge of Patterson.

The San Joaquin district planned ground spraying for adult mosquitoes in four areas of Stockton this morning.

Though mosquito activity has slowed down and should be gone by the end of October, Willie Worthen, a resident of Shadowbrook Apartments off Standiford Avenue in Modesto, said she is still worried about the disease.

She said she has found two dead birds in the apartment complex this summer. She found one on the ground beneath her bedroom window several weeks ago; the second was found Thursday behind the tennis court at Shadowbrook.

"I am 71 and my husband is 73, and neither one of us needs to get that virus," she said. "I will be glad when it is all over."

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at 578-2321 or kcarlson@modbee.com.

For more coverage from The Modesto Bee, or to start home delivery, go to http://www.modbee.com.

©2004 The Modesto Bee. All Rights Reserved.

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