This year's intense drought has caused lots of problems – for the environment, water use and with wild animals. If you can call it good, the beneficial side of no water – no mosquito breeding areas. Inyo-Mono Public Health Officer Dr. Rick Johnson said West Nile Virus, as a result, has not cropped up here but it has turned up in other California areas and the reasons are surprising.
Dr. Johnson said that the high rate of home foreclosures in California has meant empty houses with unattended swimming pools. Water left standing in the pools has bred mosquitoes. Dr. Johnson said that in these areas mosquitoes have transmitted West Nile Virus and a couple of deaths have resulted.
Because of the foreclosure issue, the mosquito problems have shifted from rural areas to urban. Los Angeles Times articles have documented this trend, reporting higher than normal cases of West Nile Virus in Kern County – in the Bakersfield area.
In the Eastern Sierra some dead birds have been tested but none have turned up positive for West Nile. As Dr. Johnson points out, this is the peak season for mosquitoes. Drought, he said, appears to have lowered the risks. Dr. Johnson did say that changes in the environment, like the re-watering of the Lower Owens river, bear watching for any unforeseen circumstances in the future.