County not immune from West Nile virus

County not immune from West Nile virus by David Lias Local officials learned this week that Clay County is not immune from the West Nile virus.

New test results released Tuesday night show the virus in 10 counties where it had not been reported before, including Clay, Clark, Deuel, Hand, Jackson, Jones, Lyman, Pennington, Sully and Yankton counties.

The virus was first detected in South Dakota last month, and has been rapidly spreading.

Barb Buhler, information officer for the South Dakota Department of Health, said it is likely that every county in the state eventually will report positive cases of the virus.

She said at a news conference held Wednesday afternoon a state health official commented that "looking at the map and the detections that we have had, you can make the assumption that it is now statewide," she said.

The virus has been detected in a horse in Clay County. Buhler didn't know in which community the horse was located.

West Nile is primarily a bird disease, and crows are especially susceptible. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on an infected bird and can pass the virus to humans, horses or other hosts when they bite.

While the West Nile virus can have serious consequences to horses and humans who are infected, Buhler said people in Clay County shouldn't grow overly alarmed.

There are steps people can take, she said. "We have been telling people the same thing pretty much all along in terms of prevention," Buhler said. "Get rid of the standing water. Get rid of the places for mosquitoes to breed. Don't go outside at dusk or dawn whem mosquitoes are most active. And if you're a horse owner, get your horse vaccinated."

Secretary of Health Doneen Hollingsworth also encouraged South Dakotans to take precautions to protect against mosquito bites:


* Get rid of old tires and other containers where water can accumulate and serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.


* Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when in mosquito infested areas, and use mosquito repellents containing DEET, making sure to follow the directions on the container.


* Use bug lights and screen doors and windows.

Horse vaccination is recommended. Horse owners should see their veterinarians. Samples from horses suspected of infection with West Nile can be tested at SDSU's Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory.

More information about West Nile can be found on the Department of Health web site at www.state.sd.us/doh/WestNile/ and on the Animal Industry Board Web site at www.state.sd.us/aib/.

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