Saturday, May 29, 2004

Dead Warren Co. bird shows West Nile virus


Officials list cautions to be taken as summer nears

By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A dead bird found in Warren County is the first in Ohio to test positive for the West Nile virus this year, health officials said.

The bird was found May 17 in the Pleasant Plain area of Harlan Township and sent to a state lab in Columbus, which confirmed the virus.

Kentucky reported a dead bird with the virus May 7, about 200 miles southwest of Cincinnati.

No human transmission has been reported in either state. But as summer approaches, health officials are reminding residents to protect themselves. The virus is passed to people by bites of mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds.

"With weather conditions warming up and the amount of rain we've had lately leaving standing pools of water, the mosquitoes are hatching out and are more active now," said Steve Divine, director of environmental services with the Northern Kentucky Health Department.

Among the precautions:

• Avoid mosquito-infested areas or stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active. If you must be outdoors, consider wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts, shoes and socks.

• Use colognes and perfumes sparingly.

• Consider using insect repellent containing DEET.

West Nile virus came to the United States in 1999 and has spread across the continental United States. Most people who are bitten by an infected mosquito will demonstrate no symptoms or signs of the illness, which include a slight fever, body aches, neck stiffness, vomiting and confusion.

Elderly people and those who have weakened immune systems are at greatest risk. In the most serious cases, it can induce a deadly inflammation of the brain.

Members of the public who are interested in submitting a dead bird for analysis should contact their local health departments. Some types of infected birds, especially crows and blue jays, are known to get sick and die from the infection.

Rubber gloves should always be used, and birds should be placed in plastic bags that can be sealed.

Ohio thought it had a human case of West Nile virus in April when a 79-year-old man from Scioto County reported symptoms, but further testing ruled it out.

Last year in Ohio, there were 14 confirmed human cases and 94 probable cases reported. Eight people died.

Kentucky reported 14 confirmed human cases in 2003, including one death.

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E-mail mleingang@enquirer.com




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