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West Nile virus now in Jackson County

by Mary Massingale

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHARLESTON-- West Virginia's first case of West Nile virus has been found in a dead bird in Jackson County.

The Eastern Blue Bird was found dead July 12 by a man in a residential area of Cottageville. He contacted Jackson County Health Department authorities, who picked up the dead bird.

The carcass was sent to the University of Georgia, where tests showed West Nile. The findings were confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Fort Collins, Colo., said John Law, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Law said he was notified of the test results late Tuesday.

"We hope it is an isolated incident," Law said Wednesday. "It is essential that people not panic -- look at it as just one bird being infected."

West Nile virus is a cause of encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. It can infect people, horses and birds. It is transmitted to humans and animals through mosquitoes.

Law said residents should remove standing water -- such as bird baths, water-filled tires and wading pools -- from their property since it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

He said residents should also wear long sleeves and pants when in mosquito-prone areas and use insect repellent containing DEET.

Most people who are infected never have any symptoms, according to the Web site of the state's Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program. A few have mild symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches and usually recover without treatment.

A small percentage of people infected with the virus need to be hospitalized. Their symptoms can include severe fever, fatigue, confusion, headache, weakness, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, stiff neck and abdominal pain.

About 10 percent of those hospitalized die from the infection. People over age 50 are the most susceptible.

Birds most prone to contracting West Nile include crows, raptors such as hawks and owls, and blue jays.

Horses are particularly susceptible to the virus, said state veterinarian Dr. Lew Thomas. Symptoms include stumbling, lack of balance, weakness and partial paralysis.

"About half the horses that contract it die or have to be euthanized," Thomas said.

The DHHR received a $178,678 grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April to help prevent the spread of the disease to humans.

The virus was identified in Uganda in 1937 and has spread to other continents, but until 1999 no cases had been confirmed in North America.

Since its detection in New York City in 1999, more than 150 people have been infected and 18 have died nationwide, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cases have been recorded in 31 states and the District of Columbia; the CDC added Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and North Dakota this year.

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On the Net:

http://www.wvdhhr.org/bph/oehp/sdc/westnile.htm

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