Two human cases of West Nile Virus have been confirmed in the city of Newman, according to the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District.

NEWMAN - Two human cases of West Nile Virus have been confirmed in the city of Newman, the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District reported today (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 this 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. Aerial spraying is scheduled for Saturday evening, he noted.

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 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, and urged residents to avoid being outdoors during those times.

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.