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Abatement district gearing up for season
• Eliminate standing water in and around homes from cans, buckets and flower pots, and remove or turn over any water-catching object when not in use.
• Keep rain gutters clean and free of obstructions.
• Change water in bird baths by flushing with a hose at least once a week unless stocked with mosquito fish.
• Clear aquatic vegetation from around the edges of ponds when stocking mosquito fish to allow the fish to feed on mosquito larvae and pupae.
The first sign of West Nile virus in California this year has local mosquito control officials anticipating the same high level of activity as 2012.
After the deadliest year in the US for West Nile and another mild, damp winter, Glenn County Mosquito and Vector Control District officials are already gearing up to battle the pests that spread the disease.
The dead American crow found in Lomita that tested positive March 3 for the virus is an early indicator that 2013 could be another bad year, officials said.
"A dry winter has a lot to do with it," said Luke Niblack, assistant manager. "We know that when there is less water around, birds tend to be more concentrated in areas where there is water."
West Nile virus, a disease carried by birds and spread by mosquitoes, first appeared in the US on the East Coast in 1999.
It reached California in 2003 and has shown no sign that it is abating, officials said.
Last year, the US Centers for Disease Control had the highest number of reported cases of West Nile virus since 2003, mostly in Texas, California and Louisiana.
There were more than 5,387 reports of the virus in humans and 243 deaths.
Of those, 51 percent were classified as neuroinvasive disease — such as meningitis or encephalitis — and 49 percent were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease, the CDC reported.
"Glenn County had seven human cases of West Nile Virus confirmed last year with one death," Niblack said.
Niblack said the district takes a multi-pronged approach to mosquito control, including spaying pesticides to kill mosquito larvae and adult mosquitoes.
The district, which covers the Willows area, and the Glenn County Valley-wide Mosquito Abatement District, which covers the Orland area, sprayed throughout the summer last year with pickup mounted ULV foggers.
"Personnel were spraying somewhere in the county every night of the work week and some weekends," he said. "A total of 753 larval and aduticiding applications were done."
The district has five ponds located at Johns Manville and the wastewater treatment plant south of Willows, where they raised about 1 million mosquito-eating fish for residential use and planting in rice fields. There is no cost to residents.
"In 2012, district staff responded to over 170 mosquito fish requests, dead bird calls, standing water or mosquito problem complaints," Niblack said.
The district also sets out a new sentinel flock of 10 Rhode Island Red chickens in northeast Willows each year during the mosquito season.
The new flock will arrive next week, Niblack said.
During the summer, a small blood sample will be taken from each chicken every two weeks to send to the state Arborvirus Lab.
Eight of the 10 chickens last year tested positive for the virus, Niblack said.
As part of an encephalitis virus surveillance program, the district traps pools of live mosquitoes throughout the county.
Niblack said four of 18 pools sent to the state for testing last year tested positive for the virus.
Two of the pools were from traps in Ord Bend. The others were from a trap in Bayliss and a trap at the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge, located south of Willows.
The Glenn County Mosquito Abatement District was formed to control nuisance mosquitoes, encephalitis and malaria in 1963 after it was approved by voters in the Willows area.
The District receives about $300,000 in revenue from a property taxes and a $35 annual special assessment, said Russ Melquist, a member of the District board.
"We have the right to go up to $55 but so far it has not been needed," Melquist told the Willows City Council on Tuesday.
In 2007, after West Nile Virus claimed the lives of several Glenn County residents, voters in the Orland area formed the Valley-wide district, which covers about 15,000 square miles of the valley floor.
It's revenue is about $170,000, which does provide a less active abatement program, Melquist said.
Most human cases of West Nile virus and deaths in Glenn County have been reported from the Orland area, officials said.
Although there has never been an active discussion about merging the two agencies, Melquist said, it would not be a good move for the Glenn County Mosquito Abatement District.
"We (Willows) would end up paying the most," he said.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.