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West Nile early detection possible in Placer

By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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Placer County residents now have an advantage when it comes to early detection of West Nile virus and other illnesses thanks to a new lab in Roseville. The Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District’s brand new laboratory, at 2021 Opportunity Drive, was recently commissioned to perform as a Biosafety Level 3 facility. This designation is a first in the state for any independent mosquito and vector control district and means the facility will be able to provide a quicker turn-around time for results when testing for West Nile and other diseases in the future. “In the end, we’re actually identifying high-risk areas earlier and providing whatever level of service we deem necessary,” said Ada Barros, spokeswoman for the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District. “So that translates into providing better surveillance and protection for the public.” While there have been no reported cases of West Nile virus in Placer County so far this year, Barros says the district expects a longer-than-normal mosquito season due to a wet spring and summer that has kept water sources where mosquitoes breed fuller than normal. This longer season increases the risk of West Nile virus making its way into Placer County, Barros said. The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District reported on July 7 that two birds and one mosquito sample tested positive for West Nile virus. The mosquito sample and one of the birds were from the Wilton area of South Sacramento County, while the other bird was found in the Pocket area. This was the first report of the season for the entire region, and there have been no reports of the virus infecting humans yet this year. Last year, there were three reported cases of West Nile virus in humans for Placer County. Barros said mosquitoes that are capable of transmitting West Nile usually stay in an area of about two square miles and that dead birds are usually the first indication that the virus has made its way into a given area. In the past, the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District had to send dead bird samples to an out-of-state laboratory, which would send back results in about one week, Barros said. Now, the district can get results within 24 hours. “The old system was certainly satisfactory, but with our new facility, we can do so much more,” said Joel Buettner, district general manager. In addition to testing for West Nile virus, the district expects to be able to test ticks for Lyme disease in the new facility by the end of the year. This is important, Barros said, since Placer County has a significantly higher rate of Lyme disease compared with other counties throughout the state. She said there is a specific tick in Placer County that is capable of carrying Lyme disease. The district hopes to soon be able to identify areas where these infected ticks live and warn the public. Currently, the state Department of Public Health does its own independent tick collection and testing, making results available to districts and local health departments. Barros said while the department does a good job of collecting data, it still leaves open the possibility of inconsistent data collected year after year. Buettner emphasized that having this facility up and running will have an immediate impact on current surveillance efforts and, just as importantly, it will allow the district to address new and emerging vector-borne diseases in the future. Toby Lewis can be reached at tobyl@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TobyLewis_RsvPT.