Local News

State Searching for Signs of West Nile Virus

Posted August 8, 2002 11:26 a.m. EDT

— While no cases of human infection from

West Nile virus

have turned up in North Carolina, health officials are using several methods to find signs of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said since the first case of the virus appeared in New York in 1999, 34 states have found evidence of West Nile in birds, horses or mosquitoes.

State health officials are using the dead bird surveillance program, in which people are asked to call a local health department if they see dead birds.

Officials also are trapping mosquitoes across the state and testing the insects for the presence of the virus. Dry weather has kept mosquito populations down.

There are also "sentinel" flocks of chickens in a few eastern North Carolina counties that are tested every two weeks for the virus.

State health officials said the threat of West Nile virus is minimal. Less than one percent of people exposed to the virus will actually develop a severe case.

But it helps to protect yourself while outdoors, especially at parks and other wooded areas. Insect repellents containing DEET are recommended.

Human symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Health officials said symptoms may not show up for two weeks from the time a person is bitten.

There is no vaccine for the West Nile virus. If you find a dead bird and would like to report it, you can call the state health department toll-free at (877) 790-1747.