The Inyo County Environmental Health Services Department has a small, yet effective, program to better manage vector-borne diseases in Inyo County. A proactive plague program has been instituted to monitor and treat plague in the Owens Valley. West Nile virus is managed through a combination of public media campaigning and the control of mosquitos by the Owens Valley Mosquito Abatement Program. Any persons who feel they may have contracted a vector-borne disease are urged to seek treatment from their medical provider. If a vector-borne disease is identified, it will be reported by your medical provider to the County Public & Environmental Health Departments for follow-up investigations.
West Nile virus is spread by the bite of infected mosquitos. Symptoms include fever, headaches, neck stiffness and muscle weakness, and the incubation period is 3 – 14 days. Prevention includes the application of DEET based or other mosquito repellents, or the wearing of long sleeve shirts and pants when outside during the dusk to dawn hours when the implicated mosquito species are most prevalent. House screens should be in good condition and all standing water eliminated.
Plague is naturally occurring throughout Inyo County. It is a bacterial disease caused by the bite of an infected rodent flea. Symptoms include fever and swollen lymph nodes. Rodents that carry plague-infected fleas include the California Ground squirrel, chipmunks, and rabbits. Preventative measures include limiting your exposure to rodents while hiking or camping, and keeping your pets, especially dogs and cats, away from rodents.
If you are camping and come across a dead rodent with no apparent signs of trauma, don't touch it, and be sure to tell the camp host about your find. If there is no campground host, give us a call as dead animals could be a sign that the plague bacterium is spreading throughout the rodent population.
The hantavirus found in Inyo County is known as the Sin Nombre Virus. The primary carrier is the deer mouse. The mice shed the virus through urine, droppings, and saliva. People are exposed when the virus becomes airborne and is inhaled or by direct hand contact and cross contraindication of the mouth, nose or eyes. Symptoms typically occur from one to six weeks following exposure and symptoms include high fever, chills, severe muscle aches and fatigue.
People usually get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal. Animals associated with rabies include raccoons, skunks, bats, dogs, cats, foxes, cattle and coyotes. Post-exposure treatment is provided by a series of vaccinations over a 28 day period. The wounds should be thoroughly washed with soap and water to decrease the risk of infection.