Drought Causing Health Problems in California

California ongoing drought

In California, ongoing drought is creating favorable conditions for dangerous infectious diseases. As a result, health problems are increasing for residents of the state.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently reported a record-breaking number of deaths related to the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus in 2014.

801 cases of West Nile Virus were reported in 2014, the second-highest number of cases ever recorded, second only to 2005, when there was 800 reported cases.

According to the department, California had the second-highest number of human cases of West Nile virus in 2014 at 801 . In 2005, the state detected 880 cases of West Nile Virus.

Orange County had the highest number of cases with 263 reports. The highest incidence occurred in Glenn County, with 35.3 cases per 100,000.

Dr. Karen Smith, director and state health officer, said that ongoing drought in the state seems to be contributing to West Nile Virus activity by creating more limited sources of water for birds and mosquitoes.

“As birds and mosquitoes sought water, they came into closer contact and amplified the virus, particularly in urban areas. The lack of water could have caused some sources of water to stagnate, making the water sources more attractive for mosquitoes to lay eggs,” Dr. Smith said in a statement.

CDPH said that it is unable to predict the level of WNV activity in 2015. Unseasonably warm weather this year could lead to increased mosquito abundance and promote an early start to the WNV disease season.

“The WNV season typically begins in the summer and tapers off in the fall months, with the highest risk for disease occurring in mid-July through September,” according to CDPH.

An infected mosquito can transmit West Nile Virus to humans and animals. However, the risk of serious illness is low for most people. Some individuals – less than 1% – can develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis. Older people aged 50 years or above and people with diabetes and/or high blood pressure have the greatest risk of developing serious complications.

It is recommended that individuals prevent exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile Virus by applying insect repellent containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, as well as using repellents to keep the mosquitoes away from you.

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About the author

Nadeem has more than 5 years of experience as a news writer/editor. He started his career as a business news reporter at a Virginia-based financial research firm in 2008. At Morning Ledger, Nadeem is responsible for writing news stories on health and science topics.