West Nile virus may have crossed river

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2002

WOODVILLE &045;&045; Some Wilkinson County residents have noticed dead blue jays and crows lately, and West Nile virus may be the cause.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals notified Mississippi officials last week after confirming the mosquito-borne virus in a 78 year-old Hammond, La. man who spent time outdoors at a lake near Brookhaven.

Two additional cases of West Nile in humans were confirmed Thursday in east-central Louisiana, and the virus has been found in birds just south of here in East Feliciana Parish.

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&uot;We have sent a couple of birds off for testing, but we have not had any confirmed reports of the virus here,&uot; said Mary Lee Bell, coordinating nurse at the Wilkinson County Health Department.

Bell said the Public Health Laboratory in Jackson is only testing blue jays and crows, which appear to be more susceptible to the disease. Bell said people should double-bag the birds in plastic and freeze them before delivery for testing.

&uot;The birds need to be freshly-killed, without insects on them,&uot; said Bell. &uot;The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, but I would advise using a paper towel or plastic to pick up the dead bird.&uot;

Symptoms in humans include headache, fever, dizziness and slurred speech. Many people will only develop mild symptoms, but the disease can lead to West Nile encephalitis, a more serious illness that can cause brain damage and death. The risk of developing encephalitis is greater among the elderly.

Health officials warn people to use mosquito repellent and wear protective clothing when outdoors.

People should also eliminate any receptacles that hold water where mosquitoes breed.

Bell said anyone needing information about testing birds for the presence of the virus can call the health department at 888-4202.