SACRAMENTO — A mosquito capable of carrying deadly yellow fever, dengue and other diseases has been detected in California as vector control agents scramble to control its spread.
The bugs first were detected in the Central Valley communities of Madera and Clovis in June, and were detected again this week in the city of Fresno and in San Mateo County in the Bay Area in August.
They bite during the day, prefer people to animals, and need only a teaspoon of water — less than in a saucer under a houseplant — to lay eggs to reproduce.
"If it gets away it will change the way we live in California. You may not be able to sit on your patio and enjoy a cup of coffee during the day without getting bit," said Tim Phillips of the Fresno Mosquito and Vector Control District.
So far none of the mosquitoes trapped within a 2-square-mile infected area of Clovis have carried diseases. But officials warn that if the mosquito called Aedes aegypti bites someone infected with dengue, problems could arise as they have across southern Florida, where dozens of residents have been infected.
The mosquito also has been detected in Texas and Arizona. Dengue is a virus that can cause headache and body pains and a rash similar to measles. Extreme cases can be deadly. Yellow fever is a virus that causes severe flu-like symptoms and sometimes jaundice. It also can kill.
"The nightmare scenarios is it gets established in California and then a mosquito bites someone with an imported case of dengue," Phillips said.
California has had about 200 cases of dengue fever since 2010, all contracted out of the country, said Dr. Vickie Kramer, chief of the vector borne disease section at the California Department of Public Health. She said the chance of disease transmission is low, but the state has warned county health departments statewide to be on the lookout for potential cases, and has asked local agencies to step up trapping.