WATSONVILLE, Calif. - First it was the sparrow, then it was the hawk, owl and crow. In the past two days, Central Coast mosquito abatement officials reported that four birds tested positive for West Nile virus.
On Tuesday, a sparrow was found in the Bolsa Knolls area of North Salinas and became the Central Coast's first West Nile case of 2012.
"This is the first indication of the resurgence of West Nile," mosquito abatement expert Ken Klemme said.
And on Wednesday, health officials said an infected Cooper's hawk was found dead just south of Watsonville, a great horned owl was found on the Santa Cruz Mountains' summit off Highway 17, and an American crow was found in Live Oak.
The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. The best way to prevent yourself from getting West Nile virus is to avoid coming into contact with mosquitoes, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Poki Namkung said.
Most infected humans do not get sick, but elderly people and young children are at higher risk of becoming ill or dying.
Five Californians have been infected by West Nile this year.
Most recently, Los Angeles health officials confirmed on Thursday that a middle-aged adult who lives in the San Gabriel Valley was briefly hospitalized for West Nile virus. Other West Nile cases include a 6-year-old girl in Stanislaus County, a 70-year-old Kern County woman, and a 59-year-old Clovis man. They all are expected to recover.
The virus' symptoms include fever, headaches, body aches, and fatigue. In less than 1 percent of infected people, the virus causes serious neurological infections including encephalitis.
The virus is most deadly for horses, although the virus has not infected any horses in California so far this year.
"Approximately half of all horses that get the disease are euthanized," Klemme said.
Residents who see a lot of mosquitoes in their neighborhoods, still bodies of water where mosquitoes are breeding, or find dead birds are urged to call the Northern Salinas Valley Mosquito Abatement District. Biologists will trap mosquitoes and collect dead birds to test them for West Nile.
Pajaro Valley -- 831-761-2483 / Salinas -- 831-422-6438 / Monterey -- 831-373-2483 / Santa Cruz -- 831-454-2590
MORE INFORMATION: www.westnile.ca.gov
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