April’s Ag Advice

April's Ag Advice by April Borders As West Nile virus continues to spread in the state, the Extension Office is urging people to take extra precautions this summer to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

As mosquito numbers increase, people are at risk of being infected by viruses spread by these pests.

A service that the Extension Office provides our community is the submission of dead birds that are found to the Department of Health in Pierre, for testing for the West Nile virus. We have submitted several birds for testing and up until Friday, July 18, we had no positive tests for West Nile virus.

On July 18th, the South Dakota State Department of Health informed our office that a blue jay collected in Meckling tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV). This is the first confirmed case of WNV in Clay County for 2003.

We will continue to collect dead birds, raptors, blue jays and crows only, until we have had five confirmed cases of WNV. These five confirmed cases can be from birds, horses, humans or a combination of cases.

If you notice a dead crow, blue jay or raptor, please collect the specimen in a bag and bring it into the Extension Office. The fresher the bird the better it is for shipping. Birds that are decomposed or that have maggots can not be tested.

Do not touch the bird with your bare hands. Use rubber gloves when handling a dead bird. If you do not have rubber gloves, insert your hand into a plastic garbage bag, grasp the bird carefully, invert the bag over the bird and tie it shut. Then bring it the Extension Office and we will ship it to the State Health Lab.

In humans, West Nile may range from flu-like illness to encephalitis or meningitis. Most people infected with WNV do not develop symptoms. Sometimes, though, mild illness results one to two weeks after exposure with symptoms such as fever, headaches, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph nodes.

Less than 1 percent of infected people may develop a serious illness like encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and the spinal cord). These people might experience headaches, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, convulsions, and muscle weakness.

If you think that you have symptoms of WNV, contact your health care provider immediately. People who are older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.

There are ways to reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.

* Wear light colored long sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors to cover the skin.

* Apply effective insect repellants to clothing and exposed skin.

* Curb outside activities during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes feeding activity is usually at its highest.

* Homes should be mosquito-proofed by ensuring doors and windows have screens.

* Eliminate sources of standing water that can serve as mosquito breeding habitat.

* Keep grass and weeds cut short, where mosquitoes like to hide.

If you have questions or need more information on West Nile virus or personal mosquito repellants, contact the Extension Office at 677-7111.

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