Two birds in Wash. Co. with West Nile

By Lesley Jenkins
Star Staff
ljenkins@starhq.com
Two birds found in Washington County tested positive for the West Nile Virus on Tuesday. Another bird in Sullivan County also tested positive on Monday.
The state Health Department released the results of the Washington County blue jay and crow, which were tested along with approximately 245 birds. Twenty-five birds tested positive as of Tuesday. The department also tested 373 horses, and 148 carried the virus.
Jamie Swift, director of communicable disease control in Washington County, said citizens submitted the birds which were sent to the state department in Nashville to be tested. The health department is continuing surveillance for infected birds and will do so until 3 to 5 birds are tested positive in each county.
Two birds from Carter County were submitted recently for testing along with 8 from Greene County, 1 from Hancock County, 3 from Hawkins and 1 from Unicoi which all tested negative. Swift added that this is the beginning of the season for mosquitos, and she expects to find more positive cases in other counties.
Swift said local hospitals have been notified that the West Nile virus is in this area and to look for human symptoms and cases. Humans can catch the virus from infected mosquitos, but not from birds, animals or other humans.
Although the chances of humans contracting the disease from a mosquito bite are less than one percent, some people will only experience slight symptoms such as fever, headache and body aches lasting for a few days. There is less than one percent risk of serious illness for those infected. Many infected people don't even know they are sick or have symptoms.
It is possible for an infected person to develop a life threatening illness, encephalitis, which has symptoms such as inflammation of the brain, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma or convulsions. Encephalitis associated with West Nile virus is rare but does occasionally occur, especially in people with weak immune systems.
Blue jays and crows are the only birds affected by the virus, according to the Carter County Health Department. If a freshly dead bird, under 24 hours, is found in Carter County, please take caution when handling. Carefully use plastic gloves or turn a plastic bag inside out over your hand and place the bird into a zip lock bag. Double bag the bird and keep it cold in a refrigerator or a cooler and take it to the Carter County Animal Shelter/Humane Society, 159 Hickory Hollow Road.
The Sullivan County Regional Health Department suggested taking the following precautions:
-Reduce or eliminate all standing water in your yard especially after a rainfall.
-Dispose of old tires, cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, and unused containers that hold water; this may include children's toys.
-Make sure all your windows and screens are intact and do not have holes.
-Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed.
-If at all possible stay inside right after dusk and just before dawn.
-Use insect repellent that contains DEET (the chemical N-N-diethyl-meta-toluamide).
-Wear socks, shoes, long sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most prevalent.
-Wear light colored clothing, which is less attractive to mosquitoes.