Local officials urged Kern County residents to slather and spritz on the bug spray Tuesday after announcing that two Bakersfield residents are recovering from West Nile virus, the county's first two confirmed human cases of the disease this year.
"I do believe one of the person's complications required them to have hospital care. My understanding is that both are recovering, and we expect that we won't have to talk about a death this season," said Dr. Claudia Jonah, public health officer for Kern County.
Jonah said one of the confirmed cases is a woman in her 70s.
In addition to the two confirmed cases, the county is awaiting verification of five other reported cases.
The mosquito-borne virus can be deadly, and June through October is peak season for the disease. Rob Quiring, manager of the Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District, said citizens would be wise to consider every mosquito they see to be positive for the virus.
"If (people are) going to be outside at night they should always wear repellent," Quiring said. "It only takes one bite."
The elderly and folks with immune system deficiencies are especially at risk, the district manager cautioned.
About 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus do not have symptoms. About 20 percent of infected people have flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever and body aches, according to California's West Nile virus public health website.
Less than 1 percent of infected people become seriously ill with maladies that can include tremors, coma, stupor, numbness and paralysis.
"For those persons who may get symptomatic, it's a horrible thing when it's highly possible it could have been prevented," Jonah said.
Jonah also urged the public to minimize their risk of contracting the illness.
"If you're going to be doing an activity at dawn or dusk, if you're going to be outside where mosquitos are, if you're going to be doing activities where a lot of skin is exposed, protect that skin," Jonah said.
Kern County Public Health Services Department officials offered the department's "3 Ds" to keep safe during mosquito season:
Dusk/Dawn: Avoid going outside when mosquitoes are most active, at dawn and two hours after sunset. Check door and window screens to make sure they are secure. Wear protective clothing if you do head out.
DEET: Wear insect repellant containing DEET per labeled instructions and don't forget to reapply. Be sure to read the labels as some repellants are not recommended for young children, Quiring said.
Drain: Get rid of standing water where mosquitoes can breed.
If a significant mosquito problem arises where you live or work, call your local mosquito and vector control agency, officials said.
The Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District, reachable at 589-2744, covers Bakersfield and extends to Wasco to the north and Lamont to the south. The district's boundaries go east to the foothills and west to Buttonwillow, Quiring said.
If you live in the Taft or Maricopa areas, call the West Side Mosquito and Vector Control District at 763-3510.
In the Delano and McFarland areas, call the Delano Mosquito Abatement District at 725-3114.
The South Fork Mosquito Abatement District covers a small area along the South Fork River in the Kern River Valley and can be reached at 760-376-4268.
You can also check which mosquito and vector control agency to call by visiting www.westnile.ca.gov. Type your zip code into the locator box on the upper right side.