West Nile virus reported in dead bird in Warren County

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 15, 2002

[08/15/02]West Nile has been found in a dead bird in Warren County, the state Health Department reports, confirming that the virus already reported in other area counties and parishes is also here.

Local law-enforcement agencies and the city’s animal control department have been collecting dead birds and submitting them for testing by the state. Eldridge Skinner, head of animal control in the city, said he has submitted seven birds for testing and none before now has been found positive for the virus linked to two human fatalities in Mississippi and seven in Louisiana.

L.W. “Bump” Callaway, head of the Warren County Emergency Management Agency, is designated as the local contact for West Nile reports, but said he has not been contacted.

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NancyKay Sullivan Wessman, a spokesman with the state health department, confirmed the report this morning.

“We did receive at least one bird from Warren County that did test positive,” Wessman said. She did not know where in the county the bird was found.

The latest tally from the health department brings to 40 the number of Mississippi’s 82 counties where the virus has been confirmed. The deaths occurred in Madison and Hinds counties. No human infections have been reported in Warren County.

State Health Officer Ed Thompson said last week that he expects the virus to show up in all 82 counties by the end of the mosquito season. In adjacent Hinds County 20 people have been infected and 14 dead birds have tested positive for the virus.

“Birds fly everywhere and if the infection is in that county then we want people countywide to take precautions and avoid mosquitoes,” Wessman said.

West Nile, a form of encephalitis, is only transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Ordinary contact with an infected bird, horse or human does not result in infection, but people should wear gloves when handling any dead bird or mammal because of the possibility of other diseases.

Most people infected with the virus never develop the illness. Symptoms usually occur in three to five days and include fever, headache, body aches and possibly rash or swollen lymph nodes.

Health officials are urging people to use precautions when outdoors including wearing long-sleeved shirts and using mosquito repellent.

People in Mississippi are also being asked to collect or report crows or bluejays that have died within 24 hours. Dead birds of other species are not to be reported.

People who find dead birds can collect them in plastic bags and contact the health department for collection and testing.