Public health officials warned the public Friday about the first ever discovery in Kern County of the yellow fever mosquito, an aggressive, day-biting pest that can carry disease.
They not only want to keep people from getting sick but wipe out the bug before it really takes hold here, said Kern County Public Health Officer Dr. Claudia Jonah.
The mosquito, also known as Aedes aegypti, was discovered in a Kern Mosquito and Vector Control District trap near Walnut Drive and Royal Street in southwest Arvin Monday, according to Rob Quiring, the district’s manager.
The California Department of Public Health then had to confirm its type.
Kern is only the fourth California county to report finding the pest; last year it was discovered in Madera, San Mateo and Fresno counties.
Fortunately, none of those yellow fever mosquitos was carrying the diseases officials are warning about, including dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.
But Kern officials are so serious about heading off proliferation of the pest — which could catch the diseases by biting an infected human — that they want anybody who gets a mosquito bite during the day to call his or her local vector control district. Daytime biting is one of several distinguishing characteristics of the Aedes aegypti, Jonah said.
“If people are aware enough early on about the mosquito...maybe we can get it eradicated before it’s a permanent part of the environment,” Jonah said.
One Kern County resident has been diagnosed with chikungunya and another with dengue, but they were exposed to the infections during travel outside the county, Jonah said.
Aedes aegypti is a small, dark mosquito with white marking and banded legs. It may be active during dusk and dawn, but most often bites during the day and often bites indoors.
One of the problems is it likes living around humans, and females lay eggs in containers with just a little bit of water, Quiring said. A key recommendation from him and Jonah is to not only dump out and replenish pet water dishes weekly but scrub them clean because the eggs stick to the sides of containers.
That kind of help from the public is imperative, Quiring said.
“Currently they aren’t carrying disease, but it doesn’t mean down the line it won’t happen,” he said of the mosquitos.
Kern Mosquito and Vector Control did set out more traps and left door hangars with information in the area where the mosquito was discovered, he said.
Officials still don’t know how the yellow fever mosquito got to California, Quiring said. A genetic study of ones collected last year in Madera and Clovis, he said, found them to be similar to Aedis agypti in Louisiana and Texas.
A fear is that local residents traveling to tropical locales could get bitten by an infected mosquito, come home and get bitten by a mosquito here — which then would infect other humans, Quiring said.
Symptoms of illness are similar to those of West Nile virus: fever, headache and joint pain, Jonah said.
Kern County Public Health asked the public to take these steps to help eradicate the mosquito:
• Report mosquito bites received during the day or the sighting of mosquitos that look like the Aedes aegypti to their local mosquito and vector control district. (See infobox)
• Apply insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535.
• Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens.
• Eliminate standing water and containers that can hold water from around the house.
• Check for hidden bodies of water such as wells, septic tanks, manholes and clogged drains.
• Get free mosquito fish for backyard ponds or water features from mosquito abatement districts.
• Maintain appropriate chlorination levels in swimming pools.