West Nile found in Selma

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Dallas County has its first case of West Nile Virus this year.

According to Jennifer Roberts, public health environmentalist with the state, a blue jay tested positive for the virus Monday. The bird was the fourth blue jay tested since May 1.

West Nile Virus can cause encephalitis &045;&045; inflammation of the brain. It’s spread by mosquito bites.

The dead bird was found by a Selma resident on Old Cahaba Road and brought to the Dallas County Department of Public Health where the test was performed.

John Strother, public health environmentalist with the state, said recent media attention on the virus has alerted people to his center’s testing capabilities. Crows, blue jays and raptors are all susceptible to the virus leading the health department to focus its testing on them.

Charles Woernle, assistant state health officer with the Alabama Department of Public Health, said the virus is maintained in a bird/mosquito cycle.

According to The Alabama Report on West Nile Virus, mosquitoes spread the virus and its been found in cats, bats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, domestic rabbits and wild and domestic birds. Woernle said the virus originated from Africa, the Middle East and Europe, but wasn’t detected in America until 1999. Since then it’s begun to make its way across the continent.

Woernle said most people with the virus exhibit no symptoms. Twenty percent, however, develop a low-grade headache and fever for a few days, but then recover.

About one in 150 have severe problems, Woernle said, including memory and behavior changes, coma and death.

Roberts said a number of precautions can be taken to prevent mosquitoes from biting. Making yourself less attractive to mosquitoes by wearing light colors is one way. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors.

Wearing long sleeves and pants is another method of keeping the mosquitoes away as is avoiding perfumes, hair sprays and lotions that may attract mosquitoes.

Time outdoors should be limited during dusk and dawn since they are high mosquito activity times.

Also, water should be emptied from tires, cans and other containers since mosquitoes breed in standing water.

Roberts said birds submitted for testing shouldn’t be dead more than 24 hours. The environmental division at the Dallas County Department of Health should be contacted so testing can be arranged.