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Torrance closes Madrona Marsh amid West Nile virus concerns

August 05, 2013|By Christine Mai-Duc
  • The Madrona Marsh in Torrance will be closed until further notice as a health precaution.
The Madrona Marsh in Torrance will be closed until further notice as a health… (Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times )

A Torrance marsh has been temporarily closed amid heightened concerns over West Nile virus and the first confirmed death this year in Los Angeles County attributed to the disease.

City officials said the closure of Madrona Marsh, effective immediately, was “a precautionary measure” and that the marsh will remain closed until the city receives more data from local vector control officials.

Two weeks ago, one of the marsh’s sentinel chickens contracted West Nile, according to vector control officials. Last week, five more of the birds tested positive, and active mosquito pools carrying the disease were found nearby.

The closure of Madrona, a 10-acre wetlands area popular with bird-watchers, comes on the heels of the first reported West Nile death in Southern California this year.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed the death of a South Bay man of the virus last week. The number of confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in L.A. County jumped from five to 13 last week, according to the department’s report.

More than half of the confirmed West Nile virus diagnoses this year have been in the South Bay.

County public health officials say it’s still very early in the season but that the number of confirmed cases is up from this time last year, which was considered a very active year for West Nile virus.

“I would not yet get out the red flag,” said Dr. Laurene Mascola, chief of the county’s acute communicable disease control unit.

Still, South Bay vector control officials are watching the region’s activity closely.

“The South Bay is unusual this year because normally when it’s near the coast and there’s cooler temperatures, the activity of the mosquitoes is much lower,” said Robert Saviskas, executive director of the L.A. County West Vector Control Department.

“We may be seeing the beginning of a very active year.”

City officials also plan to drain a pool that’s usually used to pump water into the preserve, Saviskas said.

“The health and safety of our citizens is our highest priority,” the city said in a statement. “We will continue to be diligent as we monitor the situation carefully and will notify the public as soon as possible about the reopening of the preserve.”

The city further advised residents to limit their activity during dusk and dawn in the area, which is near the Del Amo Fashion Center mall, and to wear insect repellent containing DEET, long-sleeved shirts and pants.

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christine.maiduc@latimes.com

Twitter: @cmaiduc

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