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First bird in Sauk County tests positive for West Nile virus | Environment

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First bird in Sauk County tests positive for West Nile virus
First bird in Sauk County tests positive for West Nile virus

Health officials said Monday that a dead bird found in Sauk County about two weeks ago tested positive for the West Nile virus. 

The Sauk County Health Department said a dead crow found on June 18 was the first bird in the county that has tested positive for West Nile virus since surveillance for the mosquito-transmitted virus began on May 1.

The West Nile virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by feeding on infected birds.

Cynthia Bodendein, public health director, said Sauk County residents need to be vigilant in their personal protective measures to prevent mosquito bites to avoid possible West Nile virus infection.

“The best way to avoid the disease is to reduce exposure to and eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” Bodendein said. 

To avoid mosquito bites, the health department recommended residents:

  • Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active
  • Apply insect repellent to clothing as well as exposed skin since mosquitoes may bite through clothing
  • Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry
  • Properly dispose of items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or discarded tires
  • Clean roof gutters and downspouts for proper drainage
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats and canoes when not in use
  • Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers
  • Trim tall grass, weeds and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours
  • Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas

SCHD said the majority of people (80 percent) who are infected with West Nile virus do not get sick. Those who do become ill usually experience mild symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle ache, rash and fatigue. Less than 1 percent of people infected with the virus get seriously ill with symptoms that include high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, mental confusion, tremors, confusion, paralysis and coma. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk of developing central nervous system illness that can be fatal.

The state Department of Health Services has monitored the spread of West Nile virus since 2001 among wild birds, horses, mosquitoes and people. During 2002, the state documented its first human infections and 52 cases were reported that year. During 2013, 21 cases of West Nile virus infection were reported among Wisconsin residents. West Nile virus infections in humans have been reported from June through October; however, most reported becoming ill with West Nile virus in August and September.

To report a sick or dead crow, blue jay or raven, please call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 800-433-1610. However, SCHD said it would not test more dead birds this season.

Visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov for more information on the West Nile virus.  

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