High number of birds in SLO County infected with West Nile Virus

Five birds collected in San Luis Obispo County in 2017 have tested positive for West Nile virus, an unusually high number, according to the San Luis Public Health Department. One of the infected birds was found in San Luis Obispo, two in Atascadero, one in Templeton and one in Paso Robles.

Since 2007, there have been 20 detections in water or dead birds, but no reported human West Nile virus infections until 2016, when a county resident tested positive for the virus.

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne disease that most often spreads from infected birds to humans through the bite of a mosquito. The virus can be passed on to others through transfusions, and an infection is potentially fatal.

Most people infected with West Nile do not show symptoms. Approximately 20 percent of those infected develop mild symptoms, such as fever and body aches, which typically last a few days. About 1 in 150 people who become infected with the virus develop severe illness.

The most effective way to avoid the disease is to prevent mosquito bites, Dr. Penny Borenstein, the county’s public health officer, said. To ward off mosquitoes, health officials recommend applying insect repellent; wearing protective clothing; repairing or replacing broken screens in homes; eliminating all standing water near homes; and frequently changing pet drinking water containers.