Tue09022014

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County prepares residents for arrival of 'Nile' Virus


Los Altos residents received warnings last week about another virus expected to reach the area by this summer. Health experts predict infected birds will bring the West Nile Virus to California over the next few months.

The mosquito-borne illness was first detected in the United States in 1999 in New York City and was reported in 28 states by the end of 2001. It has continued to move westward.

Santa Clara County's environmental health, vector control and public health agencies have been preparing for the illness since September, when the state's first human case was reported in Southern California. There have been no other cases reported, but county are concerned about more cases this year.

"Our major weapon in combating the West Nile Virus is an informed public," said Liz Kniss, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

County officials launched a weeklong campaign April 28 educating residents about how to prevent the spread of the illness that is transmitted to animals and humans through infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected from birds, experts say.

Los Altos Brownie Troop 615 joined about 6,000 other Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts in the county to deliver information pamphlets door to door after a training session in San Jose as part of the campaign.

The 18 Loyola School third-graders canvassed selected Los Altos neighborhoods, where they were responsible for distributing 25 or more pamphlets each. About 500 Los Altos homes and 120,000 homes countywide received notices.

Most of those infected with the virus have mild or no symptoms. Those most at risk are the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

Minor symptoms include fever, headache, body aches and occasionally a skin rash. More severe symptoms include neck stiffness, muscle weakness and paralysis, with possible permanent neurological effects.

For more information, call the county's West Nile Virus hot line at (800) 314-2427.

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