West Nile detected in birds from Hamlin County, Sioux Falls

West Nile detected in birds from Hamlin County, Sioux Falls Testing at the State Public Health Laboratory in Pierre has confirmed West Nile Virus (WNV) in an Estelline, Hamlin County blue jay and a Sioux Falls crow, the state's first bird detections this year, a health official said today. Until now, the WNV antibody has only been detected in horses. There have been no cases of human WNV reported in South Dakota yet this year.

Through July 3, the State Public Health Laboratory had tested 64 birds, 92 human specimens, and 578 mosquito pools for West Nile Virus. With the exception of the Estelline and Sioux Falls birds, all have been negative.

In addition, a Clark County dog was ill and tested positive for WNV. WNV may cause illness in many animals, but it is not thought to be a major concern to pet dogs and cats.

"These detections are scientific verification that West Nile Virus is circulating in South Dakota and it's important that all of us take preventive measures," said Dr. Lon Kight-linger, state epdemiologist for the Department of Health. "In short, we need to get rid of any standing water that gives mosquitoes a place to breed in our cities and to protect ourselves with repellent when we go outside." Kightlinger encouraged people to continue submitting dead birds for testing so the department can track the spread of the virus in South Dakota.

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

Kightlinger said most people who become infected do not become ill but some may develop mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, and occasionally swollen lymph glands or a rash. In rare cases West Nile may cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. Individuals with severe or unusual headaches should seek medical care as soon as possible.

The following suggestions can help reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile:

* Fix screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house.

* Stay indoors when mosquitoes are biting.

* Wear long-sleeved and long-legged clothing.

* Use mosquito repellents containing DEET.

* Keep mosquitoes from breeding in your yard by draining containers that hold water, filling ruts, checking gutters for pooling water, recycling old tires, and storing usable tires in a shed or garage.

Because horses are also at risk for West Nile, Dr. Sam Holland, State Veterinarian, encouraged horse owners to check with their veterinarians about vaccination. 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 is available from the Department of Health at www.state.sd.us/doh/WestNile/ or at 1-800-592-1861. Information is also available from the South Dakota Animal Industry Board at www.state.sd.us/aib/ and the SDSU Cooperative Extension Service at http://sdces.sdstate.edu/westnile/.

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