West Nile virus found in county bird

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 28, 2003

Lincoln County joined 23 other Mississippi counties Wednesdaywith identifiable cases of West Nile virus.

The Mississippi Department of Health (MSDA) announced Wednesdaythat West Nile was positively identified in a dead bird in thecounty. A dead bird confirmed with the virus was earlier identifiedin Copiah County also.

Finding the potentially lethal virus in a dead bird does notnecessarily mean the virus is prevalent in that county because of abird’s travel habits, but it does mean that citizens there shouldtake precautions, said Dr. Mary Currier, a state epidemiologistwith the MSDA.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

People become infected with West Nile when a mosquito bites aninfected bird and then bites a human, transferring the virus fromone host to another. The process is amplified as time passesbecause of the cycle of mosquitoes biting birds and then otherbirds, enlarging the virus reservoir, said Dr. Sally Slavinski, astate epidemiologist with the MSDA.

“There’s always a chance it will spill over into the humanpopulation,” she said. “A positive bird is not a surprise inLincoln County because we had activity there last year.”

Symptoms of the virus are often mild or flu-like, and mayinclude fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, a rash, muscle weakness,and swollen lymph nodes. In a small number of people, infection canresult in encephalitis or meningitis and lead to paralysis, coma,and possibly death. The elderly and small children are moresusceptible to the more serious infections because of theirdiminished immune systems.

West Nile has been positively identified in 26 humans, 29 birds,and three horses in the state since the mosquito season began inthe spring.

Those numbers are far less than the number of cases that sprungup last year when the virus invaded Mississippi for the first time.Last year, the state experienced one of the largest outbreaks ofWest Nile ever documented with 193 human cases reported, including12 deaths. Nationwide, there were more than 4,000 cases and 284deaths.

“We expect to see human cases of West Nile virus this year, andactually we are seeing fewer cases than we had at this time duringlast year’s outbreak,” Currier said. “Last year at this time we had91 confirmed human cases of West Nile virus.”

Currier credited individual and state and local governmentefforts in eradicating mosquito breeding grounds for the slowdownof infections and urged people to continue those methods.

“Since the virus is appearing in different areas of the state,it is important for all of us to be aware of the health risksassociated with the virus and take precautions against contractingWest Nile through mosquito bites,” she said.

For personal protection, she recommended avoiding mosquito-proneareas, especially at night when activity is highest; wearingprotective clothing; and using insect repellents that contain DEETon exposed body parts.

She also encouraged homeowners to mosquito-proof their home bydraining or dumping any source of standing water around the home,clean house gutters, change bird bath water weekly, and dispose ofused tires.

For more information on West Nile, people can call the healthdepartment’s hotline for the virus at 1-877-WST-NILE.