West Nile Virus Detected in SIX Ohio Counties

May 30, 2002

COLUMBUS - Seven dead crows and one blue jay in six Ohio counties have tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV), the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) announced today. No human or horse cases have been found in the state.

Two crows in Lake County and two in Cuyahoga County tested positive for WNV, a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. One crow each in Franklin, Mahoning, and Morrow counties and one blue jay from Ottawa County tested positive for the virus.

WNV was first detected in Ohio in August 2001 in a Lake County blue jay. By the end of summer, the virus had been detected in 54 blue jays and 226 crows around the state. The virus probably remained in Ohio?s mosquito population throughout the winter, said J. Nick Baird, M.D., ODH director. This spring, ODH has tested 74 crows and blue jays for the virus; 66 were negative.

"This is no surprise. Finding evidence of West Nile virus in the Spring is consistent with our expectations," Baird said. "It should, however, serve as reminder to Ohioans that the virus is here and they should take the necessary precautions."

It?s likely the virus is in all 88 Ohio counties, but has not yet been detected in the other 82, said Dr. Richard Berry, chair of Ohio?s WNV Workgroup and chief of ODH?s Vector-born Disease Program.

Ohio is one of a dozen states and the District of Columbia to detect WNV in 2002. The other states are Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. WNV has been detected only in birds and horses; no human cases or positive mosquito pools have been reported in any of these states, Berry said.

"The West Nile virus is spread to people only through the bite of an infected mosquito, not through contact with birds," Baird said. "It is not spread person-to-person."

Primarily a wild bird disease, the virus has affected a small number of people in the United States, and human symptoms generally are mild. Even in areas where West Nile virus has been reported, much less than 1 percent of mosquitoes are infected. Less than 1 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito will become severely ill, Berry said.

If anyone finds a dead crow or blue jay, they should contact their local health department, he said adding, residents can serve as partners with ODH to help protect themselves and their families against WNV.

West Nile Virus Background

The statewide West Nile Virus Workgroup, consisting of representatives from ODH, the Ohio departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and federal and local partners has been working since 2000 to develop a statewide West Nile virus plan. As part of the planning, a statewide surveillance program was instituted that helped detect the disease and includes guidelines for mosquito control. Mosquito spraying is done on a local basis.

Prior to August 1999, West Nile Virus had never been reported in the Western Hemisphere.

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). Outbreaks of the West Nile virus occurred in Egypt, Asia, Israel, South Africa, and in some parts of Europe and Australia. West Nile was first found in the United States in New York City in the fall of 1999. During that outbreak, 62 people, including 46 residents of New York City, became ill. Seven people died of West Nile virus-related infections during this initial outbreak.

West Nile virus is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. When a mosquito bites a bird that carries the virus, the mosquito becomes infected. Once a mosquito is infected, it may transmit the virus to people or animals when it bites them. Many birds can be infected, but crows and blue jays are most likely to die from the disease. Horses are also prone to West Nile virus infection. People cannot get West Nile virus directly from another person who has the disease.

EDITOR'S NOTE: ODH plans no more releases on bird cases of West Nile virus. Future updates will be posted on the ODH Website for working media only at www.odhpressroom.org. That site contains a map of Ohio that will be updated when any additional positive cases are confirmed. Users may click on any county and any/all West Nile virus cases reported in that county will be available. The general public may access the same map through the ODH general Website, www.odh.state.oh.us.