West Nile case confirmed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 29, 2002

The West Nile virus has been confirmed in Mower County.

The Minnesota Department of Health notified Chief Deputy Terese Amazi Wednesday afternoon that the virus was found in the remains of a dead crow, which had been turned over to authorities.

The crow was found in the Dexter area three weeks ago. As a precaution, it was first placed in a freezer at the Austin Animal Shelter and then turned over to the Minnesota Department of Health.

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Wednesday's confirmation that the virus is present in Mower County was expected, according to Amazi. "It's been confirmed in the counties around us, so it was bound to show up here," Amazi said.

"There is no reason for panic in the streets, but there are precautions one can take," she added.

Margene Gunderson, community health services director for Mower County, and Bill Buckley, environmental health services director for the county, agreed.

All said using a mosquito repellent spray with a 30 percent DEET content is one of those precautions.

Another is to avoid mosquito breeding sites, such as those places where there is standing water, including bird feeders, tires and low-lying spots in the ground.

Gunderson cautioned the mosquito carrying the West Nile virus is a "different type of mosquito." She said it was unique and more likely to affect those with serious health complications and people over the age 65. That is unlike the LaCrosse encephalitis mosquito, which affects young children.

"Statistics show that if there are 150 people who have been bitten by this mosquito and infected with the West Nile virus, only one of those 150 could see any of the very serious complications attributed to the virus. Most people will not even realize they are carrying the virus if they have been bitten and infected," she said.

Buckley said people should continue to report finding dead birds either to his office, 437-9527, or the state Department of Health, (877) 676-5414, and specify they are reporting a dead bird or inquiring about the West Nile virus.

Buckley said crows and blue jays are "most susceptible to the West Nile virus."

The county's environmental health services department is continuing to pickup dead birds as another precaution in dealing with the possible outbreak of the complications caused by mosquitoes bearing the virus.

All three officials stressed there is no need for panic simply because the presence of the virus has been confirmed in Mower County.

Amazi, Gunderson and Buckley all said, the mosquito carrying the West Nile virus is a "hearty" species.

Among the known facts about the mosquito is this: Not even Minnesota's winter temperatures can completely eradicate them and they are likely to winter over until next year.

"Then, we're going to have to deal with this all over again," Amazi said.

For more information about the virus go to www.health.state.mn.us

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at :mailto:lee.bonorden@austindailyherald.com