- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2001

More than 40 dead birds in the Washington metropolitan area have tested positive for the West Nile virus, city health officials said yesterday.
The news comes hard on the heels of the announcement by Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that crows containing the mosquito-borne virus turned up in Prince George's and Carroll counties.
Maurice Knuckles, director of Washington's Public Health Laboratory, said the 46 dead crows that tested positive for the disease were found in Northeast.
He added that no human cases of the disease have been discovered, and that no mosquitos have tested positive for the virus in the District or the immediate surrounding jurisdictions.
"It's a disease of birds, not humans," he said. "It's really an accident."
The majority of area West Nile cases have turned up in birds in Baltimore city and county. The most recent Maryland cases were found in a pair of crows, one in Prince George's County and the other in Carroll County.
After testing about 1,000 birds this year, Maryland health officials have found 178 contaminated, with eight pools of mosquitoes testing positive, according to the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Dr. Tracey DuVernoy, chief of the DHMH's rabies and vector-borne disease division, said no human cases have been found.
In Virginia, 628 dead birds have been tested for West Nile virus, with five crows coming up positive, according to Trina Lee, a spokeswoman for the commonwealth's health department.
Three were found in Alexandria; one was found in Arlington on Aug. 14, and one was found Suffolk on July 28. Miss Lee said no human cases of the disease have been found in Virginia.
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans via mosquitoes that picked it up from infected birds.
Human cases of the disease have popped up in other areas of the nation, most recently in Florida.
The Miami Herald reported Saturday that a 73-year-old woman from Sarasota County contracted West Nile encephalitis after a visit to Marathon, Fla.
She suffered from confusion, high fever and headaches. She has since recovered and has been released, the Herald reported.
Dr. DuVernoy pointed out that mild cases of the disease often have symptoms similar to a common cold — headaches, fever and stiffness.
"They're pretty nonspecific symptoms, so individuals may not even seek medical care," she said. "Most individuals, if they are indeed infected, will not develop any symptoms at all."
Miss Lee pinpointed education as a prime tool in preventing the spread of the disease, adding that although it is a health threat, the public shouldn't panic.
"Very few mosquitoes are going to be infected, so people shouldn't be concerned they're going to get infected with any mosquito bite," she said. "What we want to do is eliminate mosquito breeding areas around the home, such as areas where water can collect."
Health officials are also urging people to protect themselves with insect repellant and to wear long, loose-fitting clothing when spending time outdoors during the evening and early morning.

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