NEWMAN - Two human cases of West Nile Virus have been confirmed in the city of Newman, the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District reported last Thursday.

David Heft, general manager of the abatement district, said both were serious cases which required hospitalization.

Heft said he was not aware of any prior human West Nile Virus cases in Newman.

“When I first got here about 10 years ago we didn’t really see any West Nile Virus activity on the West Side,” he commented. “The virus has gotten a little more common each year. This year we started seeing people infected.”

While the emergence of human cases was not unexpected, Heft said, having two cases confirmed in as many days last week was “shocking.”

He said the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency estimates the onset dates at Aug. 24 and Sept. 1.

Heft said the abatement district has been alternating between aerial and ground spraying operations in recent weeks and will continue to do so.

The confirmed cases, he said, may very well represent a small fraction of the true number of local infections. Heft said that often human infection results in milder, flu-like symptoms which do not require hospitalization and may not be diagnosed. “For every hospitalization you could have up to 100 mild or less severe cases,” he told Mattos Newspapers.

Heft said that older residents and those with underlying health conditions are most susceptible to more serious complications from West Nile Virus.

But, he added, “a lot of times it is very random.”

Heft said early autumn is typically the peak period for mosquito - and virus - activity on the West Side as nearby duck clubs begin to flood up and agriculture harvesting activities are in full swing.

As temperatures cool in late September to early October virus activity drops quickly, Heft said, but in the meantime it is crucial that residents limit their exposure to mosquitoes.

Heft said the mosquitoes which carry West Nile Virus tend to be most active at dusk and dawn.

“The next two to three weeks, try to avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn,” Heft urged. “It is all about preventing exposure for the next couple of weeks.”

Those who must be outside, he stressed, should wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and use mosquito repellent.

Heft said the virus has been detected throughout Newman and the surrounding area, including China Island and Hills Ferry.

“If you are in that area, there are positive mosquitoes,” he cautioned.

Rhiannon Jones, general manager of the Merced County Mosquito Abatement District, issued similar precautions.

She said that the district has been receiving a higher number of service requests from the Gustine area, and is also ramping up its mosquito control efforts during the peak season.

“We have been flying the area and treating China Island and the wetlands on a weekly basis,” Jones commented Friday.

While the district has not detected West Nile Virus in the Gustine area, Jones said, “we’re not saying that it is not there because clearly it is. We have not managed to trap it. It is definitely in the area.”

With confirmed human cases in Newman, Jones emphasized, Gustine area residents should also be on heightened alert against mosquito exposure.

“We are telling everybody to be extra cautious,” she stated, adding that the Newman cases underscore the importance of taking precautions.

She and Heft both stressed the importance of the public doing its part by eliminating sources of water in which mosquitoes can breed and continuing to report mosquito outbreaks.

“Don’t stop the due diligence,” Jones emphasized.

Merced County residents may report mosquito problems to the Merced County Mosquito Abatement District, 722-1527. Residents of the West Side of Stanislaus County may report mosquito problems to the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District, 634-1234. Service requests may also be placed online through each agency’s website.