COLUMBUS – The first evidence of West Nile virus in Ohio’s 2003 mosquito season was detected in four dead birds from four counties, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
The birds include a blue jay from Cuyahoga County, a crow from Medina County, a crow from Mahoning County and a grackle from Franklin County.
While no horse or human cases of the virus have been found, the virus is active in Ohio and will likely spread to horses and humans before summer’s end, said department of health director J. Nick Baird.
“West Nile virus is a preventable disease spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is spread neither by birds nor direct person-to-person contact,” Baird said.
“I urge all Ohioans to take personal prevention measures to protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus and to eliminate mosquito breeding sites on their property.”
Disease outbreak. The 2002 West Nile virus outbreak was the largest mosquito-borne disease outbreak in U.S. history.
Ohio was behind only Michigan and Illinois in the number of cases, logging 441 probable and confirmed human cases and 31 deaths linked to the virus.
Still testing. The department of health’s vector-borne disease program will continue to test birds until finding two positive birds from a local health jurisdiction.
Once two positive birds are identified, the department will turn its attention to testing mosquitoes in that jurisdiction.
While testing for positive birds can indicate the virus’ presence, testing for mosquitoes gives health officials a better sense of how much virus activity there is in a given area.
Even in areas where the virus has been reported, less than 1 percent of mosquitoes carry the virus.
Symptoms. Less than 1 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito will become severely ill and most people will have mild symptoms or none at all.
In rare instances, however, the virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord).
People over the age of 50 and those with other health problems are most susceptible to the serious complications related to the virus; the virus has been known to spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
“West Nile virus is serious, but it is also preventable,” Baird said.
“Today’s news is a reminder to take some simple steps to ensure you and your loved ones enjoy a healthy summer.”
Personal prevention measures
* When possible, avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are likely to be biting.
* If you must be outdoors when mosquitoes are active, cover up by wearing shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
Light colors are less attractive to mosquitoes.
* Use mosquito repellent according to label directions.
* Keep windows and doors closed and be sure screens are in good repair.
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