West Nile Virus confirmed in Clay County

West Nile Virus confirmed in Clay County by David Lias The South Dakota Department of Health has added Clay County to its growing West Nile list.

Laboratory tests confirmed last Friday that a blue jay found in the Meckling area was afflicted with the virus.

That gives added importance to the precautions Clay County residents have been taking since spring to hopefully contain the spread of West Nile, said April Borders, Clay County Extension educator and agronomist.

Borders sent a second blue jay to the state lab Tuesday, July 22 for testing. She hopes to have the results back by today.

Horse owners have been protecting their animals by vaccinating them against the virus. The recently-developed vaccine and a booster shot that helps build immunity is proving to be highly effective.

Men, women and children are still suspectible, however. Borders said attempts to develop a human West Nile vaccine so far have been unsuccessful.

South Dakotans were reminded of their vulnerability Tuesday. The state Department of Health reported that a Lyman County resident who became ill July 13 is hospitalized in Sioux Falls with West Nile encephalitis.

It is the first case of human West Nile in South Dakota this year. Samples are being sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for verification.

The West Nile virus has been confirmed in 21 birds in 18 counties in South Dakota, the state Health Department reported.

Seventeen horses and one dog also have tested positive. Besides the bluejay from Meckling, other new West Nile Virus detections in South Dakota for the week of July 14-18 include: one blue jay from Bristol, Day County; one woodpecker from Sisseton, Roberts County; one crow from Freeman, Hutchinson County; one crow from Mitchell, Davison County; one prairie chicken from the National Grasslands, Lyman County; four crows from Sioux Falls, Minnehaha County; and one robin and five crows from Huron, Beadle County.

To date, West Nile Virus has been detected in Beadle, Brookings, Clark, Clay, Day, Davison, Dewey, Fall River, Hamlin, Hughes, Hutchinson, Lincoln, Lyman, Minnehaha, Moody, Roberts, Stanley, and Yankton counties.

"People need to take precautions when they are outside," Borders said. "They need to try to avoid that sunrise time and the sundown time when mosquitoes are out the most. People should also wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants during those times, and use insect repellents, like the DEET products."

Borders said it is also important for people to get rid of stagnant, standing water which serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

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.

Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health, said most people who become infected do not become ill. 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.

That's apparently what occurred earlier this month in Lyman County.

Individuals with severe or unusual headaches should seek medical care as soon as possible.

"There have already been several detections of the virus in birds and horses so human cases are not unexpected," Kightlinger said. "There's no reason for panic, but we do encourage people to protect themselves by using mosquito repellent and eliminating mosquito breeding areas."

Borders echoed Kightlinger's sentiments.

She said it is important for people to not become complacent as this summer brings more reports of West Nile detections.

"I don't think people need to panic," Borders said. "That's the biggest thing that we don't want. But they do need to make sure, as we the number of (infected) bird detections is going up, that they take the proper precautions, especially the older people."

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