Human West Nile tests inconclusive

By Lesley Jenkins
Star Staff
ljenkins@starhq.com
The report from the State of Tennessee Health Department on a human case of West Nile Virus came back on Friday afternoon that the tests were inconclusive. The Sullivan County Regional Health Department performed tests on the first human suspect case.
The health department defines a suspect case by "appropriate clinical presentation along with preliminary testing being positive."
Sullivan County Health Department worked in conjunction with the state department to determine if the illness was caused by the West Nile Virus. Since the initial test was inconclusive, additional testing will be performed, according to Jennifer Williams, Registered Nurse with the Sullivan County Regional Health Department. The next test results will be available on Tuesday.
If additional tests are positive, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta will also have to confirm the results.
The West Nile Virus is transmitted to human from infected mosquitoes that have bitten birds carrying the virus. Birds usually tested are crows and blue jays because they are the easiest to find. If you find a freshly dead bird, within 24 hours of death, carefully pick the bird up with plastic gloves and place it in double zip lock bags. Deliver the bird to your local animal shelter where the bird will be sent off to the state health department for testing.
To date, 245 birds have been tested from Tennessee, and 25 tested positive. One bird tested was from Sullivan County and two birds tested positive from Washington County.
The Sullivan County Regional Health Department advises individuals to take the following precautions:
* Reduce or eliminate all standing water in your yard.
* Change the water in your bird bath daily, during the very hot weather, or minimum of every 2 or 3 days to keep it from becoming mosquito breeding ground.
* Dispose of old tires, cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or unused containers that can hold water. This may include child's toys.
* Make sure all your windows and doors have screens and are in good repair.
* Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed.
* Repair failed septic systems.
* Limit time outside right after dusk and right before dawn.
* Use insect repellent containing DEET (the chemical N-N-diethyl-meta-toluamide).
* Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outside during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most prevalent.
* Wear light colored clothing because mosquitoes are less attracted to them.
Humans can only catch the virus from infected mosquitoes, not other animals that carry the virus. Chances of contracting the virus are less than 1 percent, but if infected the virus can cause encephalitis. Encephalitis symptoms are high fever, inflammation of the brain, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, convulsions and coma. Although encephalitis associated with West Nile Virus is rare, less than 1 percent, chances increase in the elderly and the young people when immune systems are weaker.