West Nile is no joke

The West Nile virus is here, it’s here to stay, and it’s something to be taken seriously. The mosquito-borne illness has crept its way into the North State each summer since 2004, the year after its first appearance in Southern California.

Already, the virus has been detected in the bird populations up and down the state, including confirmations this week in both Glenn and Butte counties. The California Department of Health Services announced the state’s first human case for 2007 in a 21-year-old Kern County woman—despite initial warnings that the virus hits older and sickly folks hardest.

Yes, younger people are also susceptible. Just ask Marilyn Gamette, who three years ago became the first Butte County resident to contract West Nile. She’s met many other sufferers, including a 26-year-old former marathon runner who is now hardly able to walk.

We’re not trying to fear-monger, but the trends are clear: It’s only a matter of time before someone else locally shows symptoms of this endemic disease. Now is not the time to be complacent.

The only sure-fire way to avoid contracting West Nile is to keep from being bitten by mosquitoes. We know you’ve probably heard this before, but take precautions—wear insect repellent when outdoors around dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, insect-proof your home by replacing damaged window screens, and eliminate any sources of standing water where the insects can breed.

Also, support the local mosquito and vector control districts. In Glenn County, where for two straight years authorities have recorded the state’s highest incidence of West Nile virus per capita, we hope residents approve a special assessment for regular mosquito surveillance and abatement. (The mail-in ballots are due back July 17). The average cost for a single-family home would be $21 per year; big ranchers who’d have to pay several hundred dollars should pony up to protect their workers.

If approved, the tax would generate $170,000 and serve more than 15,000 residents. That’s money well spent.