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West Nile found in Berkeley County crow

August 20, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A crow found in a nearby subdivision has tested positive for the West Nile virus, making Berkeley County the third county in the Eastern Panhandle to show presence of the virus, health officials said Tuesday.

The crow was found about two weeks ago by a property owner in the Equestrian Center subdivision, which is off Whitings Neck Road in the northern part of Berkeley County, said Jim Barnhart, a sanitarian for the Berkeley County Health Department.

The bird was sent to the University of Georgia where it tested positive for the disease, Barnhart said.

Berkeley County was one of three counties that have recently shown the presence of West Nile virus, said Joe Thornton, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

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The other two counties were Preston and Pendleton, Thornton said.

In the Eastern Panhandle, Morgan and Jefferson counties have already shown presence of the disease, health officials said.

So far, 14 counties in West Virginia have had birds that tested positive for West Nile virus, Thornton said.

Last week, Jefferson County health officials announced that a crow found in the Kearneysville, W.Va., area tested positive for West Nile virus.

Although health officials knew the West Nile virus was present in the area, they said the discovery of the infected birds illustrates the importance for local residents to take precautions to protect themselves from the virus.

The period of late July through September is a peak season for mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus because temperatures are normally higher and there is more stagnant water for them to breed, Thornton said.

Although mosquitoes like wet conditions, a lot of rain can keep water moving, which makes it difficult for mosquitoes to breed, Thornton said.

Slower moving, or stagnant water is more attractive for mosquitoes, Thornton said.

"Now is when you want to be extra careful," Barnhart said.

West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999 and is primarily a concern for the elderly or for people with weakened immune systems.

Common symptoms are neck stiffness, headache, fever, seizures and disorientation.

Health officials urge people to follow precautions to help them avoid being infected with West Nile virus.

Those precautions include:

- Eliminating pools of stagnant water around the house.

- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors.

- Apply an insect repellent to exposed skin. An effective repellent will contain 20 percent to 30 percent DEET. Higher concentrations of DEET can cause harmful side effects.

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