Top (l-r) Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District Manager Robert Quiring, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Mark Horton. Bottom (l-r), Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall, California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Mark Horton, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kern County Public Health Services Interim Director and Interim Public Health Officer Dr. Claudia Jonah. [photos by William Foster, courtesy of the Office of Governor Schwarzenegger]
LaVonne Lewis was onto something serious when she called Matt Constantine of the Kern County Public Health Department last week and learned that his department had stopped complying with California Department of Health guidelines for detection of the prevalence of West Nile Virus (WNV). Lewis wrote a story for The Mountain Enterprise as a community reporter [August 3, OPINION: West Nile May Be Here To Stay], documenting what the county told her about why they had not come, as the state said they would, to pick up a dead bird from the family for testing.
"We can’t afford to do that, besides, we know the virus is here," Constantine told the Pine Mountain mother, who is also a Ph.D. psychologist and a registered nurse specializing in emergency room and crisis care. She knew things did not sound right.
"But what if you find a sudden increase in dead birds and squirrels testing positive for WNV in Pine Mountain?" she asked. "Wouldn’t you then know to take quick action to treat possible mosquito spawning areas in the region?"
On the evening these words were being printed in this newspaper’s August 3 issue, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a letter to Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter, who had written the governor seeking a state of emergency. Florez said too little was being done despite a three-fold increase over last year in the number of WNV cases. Kern County has had two deaths attributed to the virus, plus 38 of the 56 diagnosed cases of humans infected with WNV in the state.
But Kern County, at the top of the charts in numbers of animals and birds testing positive for the virus, stopped testing because of associated costs, Constantine said.
Then on August 2 Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Kern,Colusa and San Joaquin counties, coming to Bakersfield to review the steps needed "to prevent the spread of this mosquito-borne disease." The declaration will make money available to local vector control districts.
Read the full Declaration of a State of Emergency.
Learn more: What Is West Nile Virus?
Read Diane McSherry’s first hand account of her experience with West Nile Virus in There’s More To West Nile Virus Than We’re Being Told.
Online Resources for More Information:
Home page for the West Nile Virus Survivors Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the West Nile Virus.
A compilation of first-hand accounts by survivors of the West Nile Virus.
The Center for Disease Control’s page on the West Nile Virus.
Wikipedia’s entry on the West Nile Virus.
–List by Jake Andrews
This is part of the August 10, 2007 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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