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San Joaquin County reports first human case of uncommon mosquito-borne virus in nearly 40 years

St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) has not been seen in the county since 1973.

STOCKTON, Calif. — San Joaquin County Public Health Services (SJCPH) said it has received the first reported human case of the mosquito-borne disease St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) in the county in nearly 40 years. 

The health agency said that in August, the district's mosquito-borne disease surveillance program discovered SLEV in a group of collected mosquitoes in roughly the Lodi/Lockeford area. It was the first environmental detection of SLEV in the county since 1973.

Now, San Joaquin County reports that a human case has also been detected. The person with SLEV lives in Stockton and is recovering at home, according to SJCPH.

In the era of coronavirus, it was perhaps inevitable that a seemingly long-gone virus should return to California.

SLEV is similar to West Nile Virus in that it is transmitted through mosquito bites. Symptoms for both diseases are also alike. However, SLEV is less common in California than West Nile Virus. 

Most people who are infected with SLEV don't experience any symptoms or will only develop mild symptoms, like fever, headache, and nausea. In rare cases, SLEV can cause brain swelling, which can lead to death. Older adults are more at risk of getting seriously ill.

SLEV is not passed from person to person, rather just through a mosquito bite. 

To help reduce the risk of getting infected with viruses like SLEV and West Nile Virus, SJCPH recommends the following: 

  • Eliminate all standing water on your property where mosquitoes can breed. 
  • When outdoors, apply insect repellent that contains EPA registered active ingredients including DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Follow the label’s instructions. 
  • Avoid spending time outside when mosquitoes are most active, at dawn and dusk, and especially for the first two hours after sunset.
  • If outdoors when mosquitoes are active, wear long pants, loose-fitting/long-sleeved shirts, and other protective clothing.
  • Exclude mosquitoes from your home with tight-fitting screens on doors and windows.
  • Report daytime biting mosquitoes or significant mosquito infestations to San Joaquin County Mosquito & Vector Control District here, or call 209-982-4675, or 1-800-300-4675.

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