The morning Marie Heilman contracted a deadly virus started out like any other. Little did she know, a chance meeting with a mosquito would change the course of her life forever. After dropping her daughter off at the airport following a lovely weekend visit, Heilman suddenly felt ill. \u201cI knew I was bitten by a mosquito, probably while gardening outside or mowing the lawn,\u201d Heilman said. The symptoms came fast and furious. First, Heilman felt lethargic and exhausted. Then she experienced vertigo. Then the dizziness, nausea, and headaches set in. It wasn\u2019t long before doctors gave her the horrible diagnosis: she had the West Nile virus. Instead of letting the diagnosis take control of her life, Heilman decided to be as active as she could and joined the board of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District so that she could use their amazing platform to educate others about the dangers of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. What is the MVCD? The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District has been around for over 70 years, providing safe, effective, and economical mosquito and vector control for both Sacramento and Yolo counties. The MVCD strives to protect public health and welfare from diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, like West Nile virus, western equine encephalitis, canine heartworm, malaria, and others. Their tireless work includes providing ongoing surveillance of mosquitoes and other vectors (insects and animals that transmit a disease to other animals or humans). The most commonly known vectors are bloodsucking insects, like mosquitoes, ticks, mites, and fleas. \u201cWe\u2019re seeing a higher abundance of mosquitoes,\u201d said the Sacramento-Yolo County MVCD spokesperson Luz Maria Robles. \u201cSix times more mosquitoes this season than at the same time last season.\u201d Robles went on to say that 80 percent of West Nile virus cases are symptom-free. The remaining 20 percent will suffer as Marie Heilman did, with fatigue, fever, and even a rash that can last a couple weeks. But thanks to the work of the MVCD, there are ways to temper and even stop the threat from these deadly mosquitoes. What does the MVCD do? Many residents don\u2019t know the extent to which MVCD works in order to protect the public from these threats. The MVCD is always incredibly careful to provide the most cautiously considered and responsible treatments so that they are protecting the public from both mosquitoes and their toxic treatments. \u201cWe always use an integrated vector management approach, which is very similar to what the agriculture industry uses with their pest management. What it means is that we make sure we identify the problem, and then we take steps to minimize that problem using the least invasive methods possible,\u201d explained District Manager Gary Goodman. \u201cFor example, we set out traps to identify an abundance of mosquitoes, and then we identify the species and any risks associated with those mosquitoes in terms of diseases they can transmit to humans.\u201d The MVCD avoids spraying as much as possible, using mosquito fish instead. Considered the best defense against mosquitoes, mosquito fish are a type of fish that are released into mosquito-ridden waters in order to feed off the live larvae, getting rid of future threats. Because the MVCD is always striving to be a better steward of the environment, they rigidly follow the laws and regulations of many agencies in order to comply with the standards set forth. \u201cAll of the pesticides we use are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Agency and the state of California\u2019s Department of Pesticide Regulation,\u201d said Goodman. \u201cWe have to follow all the laws and regulations regarding those pesticides. We\u2019re also regulated by the Department of Public Health to make sure we\u2019re all qualified and trained.\u201d On top of all that, the MVCD strives to make sure the public\u2019s health is protected at all times from these killer bugs. The MVCD has even put together the Mosquito and Mosquito-Borne Disease Management Plan, a comprehensive program that helps to manage and protect outbreaks and threats from mosquito populations. There are five levels to the plan. Level 1 applies during a normal season. This is when MVCD performs routine mosquito, mosquito-borne disease, and public health pesticide efficacy surveillance activities. Level 2 of the plan occurs when the MVCD Microbiology Laboratory detects a mosquito-borne virus, like the West Nile virus that Marie Heilman suffered from. A Level 2 event would be, for example, finding an infected dead bird or positive mosquito pool within the boundaries of the area. A Level 3 response is initiated when the MVCD lab detects conversion to a mosquito-borne virus (i.e., WNV or WEE) in a sentinel chicken or chickens. Level 3 can also occur when the DPH notifies the MVCD of an infected horse or other animal within the boundaries of the area. A Level 4 response happens when the County Public Health Laboratory or DPH notifies the MVCD that a human has locally acquired a mosquito-borne virus. Level 5 is the final level of response in the plan. Level 5 responses are initiated when there are multiple mosquito-borne-virus infections in humans in an area. This level of response can also be initiated if there is overwhelming evidence that epidemic conditions exist. How the MVCD can help you. It\u2019s clear that the MVCD has to do a lot in order to stay on top and ahead of the threat of these killer insects. They don\u2019t just need to have a plan in place to contain threats: they have to be prepared for new threats that can arrive any day. For instance, MVCD announced to the public that two new mosquitoes had made it to California and asked citizens to be vigilant in protecting themselves. The two new species, the Asian tiger mosquito and yellow fever mosquito, haven\u2019t yet been seen in the Sacramento Valley, but they do pose a serious threat. The MVCD provides an enormous number of free services and education on new threats, current threats, and ways to protect the community. Make sure to stay on top of what\u2019s happening in your community by going to fightthebite.net.