West Nile virus not likely to hit county

October 05, 2000

West Nile virus not likely to hit county


see also: To report dead birds

Although Washington County has a large population of migratory crows, it is not a high-risk area for an outbreak of the potentially fatal West Nile virus, area public health officials say.

Dead crows are used to track the spread of the virus because they are highly susceptible to the virus, said Joey Scaletto, West Nile virus surveillance coordinator for Maryland.

The virus is transmitted when mosquitoes feed on infected birds. Mosquitoes then transmit the virus to humans and animals.

Humans cannot get the disease from dead crows or from human-to-human contact, according to the Maryland Community & Public Health Administration.


"We're not in a high-risk area," Washington County Public Health Officer Bill Christofell said Tuesday. "With the first frost the problem should go away."

Mike Cantwell, an entomologist with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, said Washington County is at less risk than other areas of the state because "there isn't a tremendous mosquito population."

Public health officials are monitoring the spread of the virus, testing dead birds and live mosquitoes. So far 13 infected dead birds have been found among more than 250 tested in Maryland. Most of the infected birds were in the Baltimore area.

Baltimore neighborhoods have been sprayed with pesticides in an effort to control the disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Three dead birds from Frederick County recently were tested, Scaletto said.

Scaletto and Christofell said they were unaware of any dead birds being submitted for testing from Washington County.

More than 3,100 mosquito pool tests have failed to find the virus in Maryland.

No mosquito testing is being done in Washington County, Cantwell said.

Most of the testing is being done in urban areas that closely match conditions in New York City where a West Nile virus outbreak killed seven elderly people in 1999 and made another 55 ill. One death due to West Nile virus has been reported in the United States this year.

West Virginia officials are testing dead birds, but not mosquitoes.

In Franklin County, Pa., workers for the Franklin County Conservation District are gathering mosquito larvae and live mosquitoes for testing. Dave Stoner, a conservation technician for the district, said species of mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus have been found in the county, but none have tested positive for the virus.

There have been two reported cases of West Nile virus in crows in Pennsylvania, one from Levittown in Bucks County and the other in Treddfyrin in Chester County.

To minimize the risk of mosquito bites, Christofell advised people to wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats and to use insect repellent. Standing ponds of water should be removed because they are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Symptoms of West Nile encephalitis are the same as the common cold: Fever, headache and aching muscles. Christofell said people who have been bitten by mosquitoes and are experiencing those symptoms should see a doctor.

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