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Two Escambia birds test positive for West Nile

By By Bill Crist Special to the Advance
While suspected to be present in our county for at least a month, tests on Tuesday confirmed that West Nile virus is here, and that people should take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
According to Ricky Elliott, environmentalist with the Escambia County Health Department, two birds tested positive for WNV this week. A crow found at Bradley and a blue jay found at Appleton Road died Monday, and were tested Tuesday.
"These are the first positive birds we've had this year in the county," Elliott said. "People need to be aware that the virus is here and that they need to take steps to protect themselves."
In the past, local health department offices sent birds to the state lab for testing, but Elliott said a new procedure has been developed that allows for testing on a local level. That means results are available much more quickly than in the past.
Elliott said he has tested 15 birds so far this year, and that 13 of them did not test positive for WNV. Blue jays, crows and raptors can be tested for the disease.
Elliott asked that anyone encountering a dead bird,, regardless of type, contact the local health department at 867-5765 and report the bird's location. If the bird can be tested, the health department will pick it up or individuals can bring them to the satellite office, on Highway 31.
Elliott said care should be taken not to touch the bird, that gloves should be worn and it should be placed in a double bag.
Elliott encouraged people to continue to other steps are taken around the home.
"People need to be really careful around their houses," he said. "Be sure to check screens and make sure that mosquitoes cannot get through and empty any standing water that may be around the house or yard."
A female can lay 200-400 eggs at a time, and those eggs have a 10-12 day incubation period, Elliott said.
The 5 D's remind people to avoid being outside during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active; to dress to cover your skin with protective clothing; to protect bare skin with mosquito repellent that contains DEET and to drain empty containers holding stagnant water.
There have been three confirmed human fatalities due to WNV this year, Elliott said. One was in Alabama, occurring in Talladega County. The other two cases were in Texas.
In 2002, Alabama experienced 49 cases of West Nile Virus, including three fatalities.
Additional information about the two viruses is available on the Alabama Department of Public Health Web site at www.adph.org/westnilevirus.