Barbara Hougton

(530) 621-6649

El Dorado County health officials have received confirmation from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) that a dead bird found in the Placerville area has tested positive for West Nile virus, the first for 2016. The bird, a Western Scrub Jay, was found on August 23, 2016. There have been no reported cases of human infection with West Nile virus this year in El Dorado County.

As of August 26, 2016, West Nile virus activity has been reported in 36 California counties. Statewide this year, over 1,000 birds have tested positive for West Nile virus, 78 people have been infected with the virus and two people have died. 

“Confirmation of our first West Nile virus positive bird means the virus is circulating between birds and mosquitoes and there is heightened risk of infection in humans. It’s important to take precautions,” said Barbara Houghton, Environmental Health Manager with the El Dorado County Environmental Management Division. 

West Nile virus can be transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito.  Mosquitoes get the virus when they feed on infected birds. The illness is not spread from person-to-person. While most people infected with the virus show no symptoms, some may have high fever, severe headache, tiredness and/or a stiff neck that can last several days to several weeks. The most serious cases of West Nile virus infection can lead to encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, which can be fatal.   

Mosquito surveillance programs are in place throughout the El Dorado County. Activities include trapping and identifying mosquitoes, treating neglected swimming pools, and reporting and testing dead birds or tree squirrels (which can also become infected with West Nile virus). The El Dorado County Public Health Division conducts human surveillance activities and health care providers are asked to routinely test human cases of viral meningitis and encephalitis for West Nile virus. 

Houghton recommends the following tips to prevent West Nile virus:

  • Drain standing water around the property and keep water in swimming pools, ponds and water troughs circulating or treated with "Mosquito Dunks" or mosquito fish.
  • Apply insect repellent that contains DEET or another approved substance (e.g. picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535) on exposed skin when outdoors.
  • Dress in long sleeves and pants when outdoors among mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn.
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight fitting screens, kept in good condition.
  • Report dead birds and tree squirrels to the State West Nile Virus hotline at (877) WNV-BIRD (877-968-2473) or online at  Wear gloves and place the dead bird or squirrel in a double plastic bag if you dispose of it yourself.

Mosquito problems and neglected swimming pools should be reported to the Environmental Management Division at (530) 621-5300 on the West Slope or (530) 573-3450 in South Lake Tahoe. Additional West Nile virus information can be found at or


# # #