Santa Clara County: Spraying, bait planned after fruit fly, West Nile discoveries

Santa Clara County: Spraying, bait planned after fruit fly, West Nile discoveries

SANTA CLARA COUNTY — Officials planned two new rounds of pest-control efforgts after finding more West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes in San Jose and the discovery of fruit flies that carry a dire threat to local agriculture in Santa Clara.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture said it was taking “emergency action” to prevent the spread of the oriental fruit fly after two flies were found in the areas surrounding Cupertino, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale within the past month.

“It would be disastrous for the oriental fruit fly to get established in Santa Clara County and California,”  County of Santa Clara Agricultural Commissioner Joe Deviney said in a statement.

The flies, which are native to Asia but have spread to multiple islands in the Pacific Ocean, burrow into fruits and vegetables, making them inedible. In total, the fly threatens more than 200 types of foods grown in California, almost $20 billion worth of crops, according to the state agency.

Authorities also said they had detected other “suspected” fruit flies in the same area and were awaiting confirmation of those findings.

According to the state agriculture agency, oriental fruit flies can hitchhike into California when people bring home fruits and vegetables from out of state, or receive fruit in mail packages.

The treatment — which was set to begin Saturday night — will initially target the areas where the first fruit flies were located, but could expand over the next several weeks. The department will be applying bait containing a pesticide, spinosad, on street trees, utility poles and other locations 8 to 10 feet off the ground.

Officials said the fruit-fly treatment has been commonly used in California and the United States for years, and is safe for humans.

Residents who may found fruit that is infested can contact the County of Santa Clara Division of Agriculture at scc.agriculture@cep.sccgov.org or 408-918-4600.

The latest West Nile discovery was confirmed in an area just south of downtown San Jose surrounding Kelley Park, county officials said in a separate news release. The Santa Clara County Vector Control District said the area would be treated starting 10 p.m. Tuesday, lasting approximately 4 hours.

Since West Nile virus arrived in California in 2003, 7,000 people have contracted the disease. The virus continues to be the disease spread most by insects in the United States, officials said this week.

Residents do not need to relocate during the operations, the district said, adding that mosquito treatments pose minimal risk to people, pets, animals, and the environment when applied by a licensed professional. But those wishing to take extra precautions can remain indoors with windows and doors shut while the operation is underway.

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Earlier this month, a Santa Clara County resident tested positive for the virus, public health officials said, but recovered after a brief hospitalization. The Vector Control District says it’s normal to see an increase in the virus in the late summer and early fall seasons due to the warm weather, which mosquitos thrive in.

Public health officials say the virus has a low risk of serious illness for most people under the age of 60 that don’t have certain medical conditions, and most people who contract is experience mild or no symptoms. Those who do have symptoms could experience fevers, headaches, body aches, and in severe cases, neurological problems.