It’s getting to be mosquito season in California, and public health officials say people need to be vigilant about avoiding bites.
Mosquitos don’t spread COVID-19, but they do carry West Nile Virus, which has sickened more than 6,000 Californians since 2003, according to state data. There’s no vaccine for it, and it can be fatal.
And this year some counties may not be taking their usual vector control measures. The National Association of County and City Health Officials says department budgets are strained due to coronavirus, and mosquito testing might go by the wayside.
“The COVID-19 response has taken time, attention, and personnel away from all other unrelated health priorities,” the organization wrote in a statement. “In doing so, existing services are strained or paused, with health impacts that will ripple through communities.”
Also on the list of public health priorities taking a backseat in some counties: sexually transmitted disease testing, HIV prevention and clean needle exchanges.
When it comes to vector control, counties might not be able to get the supplies, lab space, or seasonal staff they need to test mosquitoes for West Nile.
Peter Bonkrude, president of the Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California, said some agencies are working with a limited mask supply.
“COVID-19 has taken kind of a focus for everybody in terms of public health response. But West Nile Virus is still an endemic disease,” he said. “A lot of the diseases we deal with on a regular basis still are there, and we can’t completely divert all of our attention and resources.”
He says people can do their part by checking their property for stagnant water. Mosquitos can lay eggs in a puddle as small as a bottle cap.
Luz Maria Robles with the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District says they’re continuing all of their usual surveillance and public education.
“I think the fact that people are paying attention to public health concerns helps us as it relates to mosquito control,” she said.
People should also avoid recreation at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most likely to bite.
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