A dead crow collected in downtown Chattanooga has been confirmed as the first bird in Hamilton County to test positive for West Nile virus, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department reported today.
No humans have tested positive for the virus here.
The crow was found August 9 by a citizen who reported it to the health department for collection and testing by the state health department.
Laboratory testing has now confirmed the bird was positive. "Finding a positive bird here in Hamilton County was not unexpected, given the spread of the virus in this geographic area," said Administrator Becky Barnes of the local health department.
"But positive birds reinforce the importance of encouraging area residents to take steps to avoid mosquito bites."
The crow was one of 12 crows and blue jays sent by Hamilton County to the state lab for testing so far this summer, she said. Two of those birds have tested negative. Results have not yet come back on the remaining nine.
Two men in Georgia have died from West Nile, including a 51-year-old man in Atlanta and a 77-year-old man in Columbus. Four other people in Georgia have tested positive for the virus.
Not every mosquito carries West Nile, she explained, and not everybody bitten by a mosquito with West Nile will become ill.
Only one percent of people who are infected by the virus experience serious illness. Usually, the disease causes mild flu-like symptoms such as headache, soreness and fever.
The virus is spread by mosquitoes which first bite an infected bird and then bite a person, Ms. Barnes said. This cycle can be interrupted by reducing the number of mosquitoes and by avoiding being bitten by those that are present.
The health department has two trucks which regularly spray for mosquitoes throughout Hamilton County, she said. In addition, about 200 identified mosquito-breeding areas are regularly inspected and treated when necessary.
As the health department learns of more such areas, they are added to the list of areas inspected.
The crow was one of 54 birds from throughout the state found to be positive for West Nile virus this week, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. The virus also was found in nine other counties where it has not been seen before, including Fayette, Giles, Greene, Hamblen, Jackson, Lawrence, Monroe, Sumner and Weakley.
In neighboring Bradley County, a blue jay tested positive for West Nile virus earlier this month.
Since mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, individuals and businesses can help reduce the number of insects by eliminating or regularly changing the water in bird baths, rain gutters, rainwater barrels, children's wading pools and other containers.
Individuals can avoid mosquito bites by following a few simple rules:
* Stay indoors at dawn, dusk and in the early evening.
* Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you are outdoors.
* Avoid wearing perfumes or colognes since they can attract mosquitoes.
* Apply insect repellant sparingly to exposed skin. (An effective repellent will contain 30 percent DEET [N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide]. DEET in concentrations greater than 30 percent may cause side effects. Children should use repellants containing only 10 percent DEET.)
* Repellants may irritate the eyes and mouth, so avoid applying repellant to the hands of children. Insect repellents should not be applied to very young children (under 3 years old).
* Spray clothing with repellents containing permethrin or DEET, as mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing.
* When you use an insecticide or insect repellent, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's directions for use, as printed on the product.
Members of the public who want to report finding a dead crow or blue jay - or who know of mosquito-breeding areas not currently inspected or areas that need spraying – should call 209-8110. West Nile virus is a reportable disease. To report possible human infections, call 209-8190.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention operates a hotline for the public to call with questions about West Nile virus. The phone number is 1-888-246-2675.
There is also a hotline for the hearing-impaired at 1-866-874-2646 and a Spanish language hotline at 1-888-246-2857.
More information on West Nile virus is available at www2.state.tn.us/health/CEDS/wnvhome.htm.