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Be on the lookout for dead birds: West Nile virus is back

Bird on a branch
Birds are the early warning of the presence of West Nile virus.  (Photos courtesy UC Integrated Pest Management)

Mosquitoes spread it; take precautions when outdoors

Seen any dead birds in your neighborhood?

West Nile virus is back again this summer, with positive test samples found in 11 California counties including Sacramento. As of June 26, the state reported 92 positive mosquito samples and 19 dead birds containing the virus. Six dead birds were reported in Sacramento County just last week, bringing the total to seven for 2020 – the most of any county in the state.

The first human case in California this year was reported last week in Stanislaus County.

Transmitted by mosquito, West Nile virus is a potentially fatal disease that’s affected California since 2003. Last year, 225 human cases were reported in our state including six deaths.

Since it was first detected in California, West Nile virus has infected more than 7,000 people and caused 709 deaths in our state.

Yellow-billed magpies are among
favorite Sacramento-area birds. Report
any dead birds at
Sacramento County’s first 2020 mosquito sample with the virus was collected on Bond Road near Highway 99 in Elk Grove, according to the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District. Other positive samples have been found in 95628 (Fair Oaks) and 95829 (Vineyard) zip codes. The first dead bird of the season – a California scrub-jay – was found in Carmichael. Other dead birds included crows and yellow-billed magpies.

“As we expected, the very warm weather we’ve had recently increased the number of mosquitoes and accelerated virus activity,” said Gary Goodman, district manager. “It’s important for residents to take these findings seriously and do everything they can to protect themselves.”

As a result of recent finds, the district will increase its monitoring and may soon start targeted ground spraying.

In the meantime, Sacramento County residents are urged to be on mosquito alert. Wear mosquito repellent when outside. Experts also urge people to wear long sleeves and long pants when outdoors, and avoid being outside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Drain potential mosquito breeding areas. Report neglected or abandoned pools and ponds.

And report dead birds. Call 1-800-429-1022 or visit

Want to know more about the spread of West Nile virus? See tracking details and latest reports statewide: .


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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