Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus. Photo by Noah Poritz, courtesy United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service

West Nile virus is on the rise in the Eastern Coachella Valley, vector control officials said Friday, with more mosquitoes testing positive for the disease in cities throughout the desert.

Eleven samples of mosquitoes found in Mecca tested positive Thursday for the virus, bringing the total number of West Nile virus-positive mosquito samples in the Coachella Valley to 37, according to the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District.

The mosquitoes were found in six traps along Lincoln Street, between Avenue 63 and 5th Street in Mecca. Positive samples were previously found in Thousand Palms, Mecca and Thermal this year. The Thousand Palms detections marked the first positive samples found in all of California this year.

Only eight positive samples were found in the Coachella Valley by this point last year, according to the control district.

“When it comes to mosquitoes, the hot topic is the species that can transmit Zika virus, but the reality right now in the Coachella Valley is that West Nile virus is active and spreading among out local mosquito population,” said Jill Oviatt, district spokeswoman. “We urge residents to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves in the early morning and evening hours, to prevent bites that could infect them with a serious illness.”

In response, the district will begin truck-mounted spray applications in Mecca starting at 3 a.m. Saturday. The applications, to be conducted in an area between Lincoln Street, Avenue 62, Johnson Street and Avenue 66, will continue through Wednesday, from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. each day.

West Nile is transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected mosquito.

Most people who contract the virus don’t experience symptoms, which include fever, headache, body aches and, in severe cases, result in hospitalization or death. Young children, senior citizens and those with lowered immune systems are at the greatest risk.

West Nile virus is also transmitted to horses via infected mosquitoes, and can be deadly in some cases.

–City News Service

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