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NUMBER OF BIRDS FOUND WITH WEST NILE JUMPS.

Byline: L.C. Greene Staff Writer

The number of wild birds infected with the West Nile virus have increased dramatically, as state health officials reported Friday that they have found 157 dead birds - mostly crows - between Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Officials found 75 infected birds in San Bernardino County, 60 in Los Angeles County and 22 in western Riverside County.

The numbers of West Nile-positive birds in Southern California jumped from only six two weeks ago to 36 last week and to nearly 160 on Friday.

``There's definitely an epidemic in the bird population,'' said Ken Fujioka of the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District.

Infected dead birds were found in 38 cities including Ontario, Claremont, Rialto, Fontana, Rubidoux, Riverside and Norco, as well as towns as far east as Redlands and west into the San Gabriel Valley. The highest concentration of birds were found in Fontana, Rialto and San Bernardino.

``We can say that West Nile virus is intensifying in that region of the state,'' state Department of Health Services spokeswoman Vicki Kramer said.

The mosquito-borne virus, which has been migrating westward across the United States since 1999, can in rare cases lead to life-threatening encephalitis or meningitis in humans.

Immune-compromised individuals and those over the age of 55 appear to be the most vulnerable.

Eighty percent of people who contract the illness, however, will exhibit no symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 20 percent will experience no more than a flu-like illness.

In one out of 150 cases, though, the symptoms can be severe, leading to brain damage or death in some instances.

Last year, the CDC confirmed nearly 10,000 cases of West Nile fever nationwide, with 264 deaths.

Horses and members of the corvid bird family, such as crows, ravens and jays, and some raptors, are especially vulnerable to West Nile.

As of Friday, the state reported no human or equine cases.

The dead birds testing positive for the West Nile virus Friday included 153 American crows, two scrub jays, one common raven and one black phoebe.

With the latest report, vector control officials ratcheted up their level of concern and appealed for public cooperation.

``I urge people to check their back yards and make sure you're not breeding mosquitoes,'' said Min-Lee Cheng, general manager of the West Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District in Chino.

Residents who fail to maintain swimming pools or other sources of standing water could face steep fines - as much as $1,000 per day.

``We cannot relax on this issue,'' Cheng said.

In addition, Inland Valley residents were urged to take precautions against mosquitoes by repairing screens on their houses, staying indoors during evening or morning hours when mosquitoes are most active, and wearing insect repellent when outside during those times.

Repellents with 20 percent to 30 percent DEET should be used, Cheng noted.

The higher infected bird count indicates that the virus is prevalent in the area, Cheng said. ``The chances of being bitten by an infected mosquito is higher now.''

L.C. Greene, (909) 483-9337

l-greene(at)dailybulletin.com

BIRDS TESTING POSITIVE FOR WNV

Los Angeles County: Alhambra (2), Arcadia (9), Azusa (1), Cerritos (1), Claremont (3), Covina (4), Downey (1), Duarte (1), El Monte (6), Gardena (1), Glendora (1), Hacienda Heights (1), La Habra (1), La Mirada (4), La Puente (3), Lakewood (1), Monrovia (3), Montebello (1), North Hills (1), Pasadena (1), Rosemead (1), Santa Fe Springs (2), Temple City (1), West Covina (8), Whittier (1).

Riverside County: Corona (1), Norco (2), Riverside (18), Rubidoux (1).

San Bernardino County: Bloomington (5), Colton (5), Fontana (18), Highland (1), Loma Linda (3), Ontario (2), Redlands (1), Rialto (13), San Bernardino (27)

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:May 29, 2004
Words:624
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