Bird with West Nile virus found in San Luis Obispo

A bird carrying the West Nile virus has been found in San Luis Obispo.

County public health officials collected the bird Aug. 9, and it tested positive for the virus. It is the first confirmed case of the potentially fatal disease this year in the county.

Mosquitoes can carry the virus when they feed on infected birds and can then transmit the virus to people and animals. The disease is transmitted when an infected mosquito bites a person.

“Late summer is the peak season for West Nile virus,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, county health officer. “It is important to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites by eliminating mosquito habitat around your home, avoiding mosquitoes and wearing appropriate clothing with mosquito repellant, as necessary.”

About 80 percent of people infected with the virus do not show symptoms. Those who do typically experience flulike symptoms five to 15 days after they are bitten.

A small percentage of those who become infected develop severe illness.

West Nile virus has been detected in 34 other counties in California, with 34 human cases and one death since the beginning of the year. Nationwide, 1,118 human cases have been reported this year, including 41 deaths.

Federal health authorities warned Wednesday that the nation was headed toward the worst outbreak of the disease in the 13 years the virus has been observed in North America.