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Wild birds test positive for West Nile Virus 

Press Release

Arkansas Department of Health & Human Services

(Little Rock--) The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Health (DOH), announced West Nile Virus-positive wild birds have been identified in Boone, Faulkner, Marion, Pope, Pulaski, Sebastian, Madison, and Franklin Counties. Positive sentinel chickens have now been identified in Pulaski County.

Melody Parsley, Senior Epidemiologist, said, “The West Nile virus infects certain wild birds. Some infected birds are known to get sick and die from the infection, and serve as an indicator of the presence of the West Nile Virus in a specific area of the state.”

Sentinel chicken flocks are also being used to determine when the virus is present in a particular area. This year the Health Division is adding robins to the list of dead wild birds accepted at Local Health Units for shipping to DOH laboratories for testing. Robins, like the hawks, owls, crows, and blue jays currently tested, are birds that are particularly susceptible to West Nile Virus infection.

Parsley said, “Testing of dead robins, hawks, owls, crows, and blue jays is a good way to check for West Nile virus activity in the environment and to serve as notice of the need to emphasize prevention and control measures to minimize the spread of the virus.” The virus is carried and transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no evidence that handling dead birds can transmit West Nile virus. Arkansans are encouraged to report and submit dead robins, hawks, owls, crows, and blue jays to local health units for testing.

Residents should take the following steps when they want to submit a dead bird to the Health Division for testing:
· Avoid submitting decomposed birds for testing. A bird cannot be tested if it is decomposed, chewed up, or has ants or maggots on the carcass.
· Avoid bare-hand contact when handling dead birds. Use rubber gloves when handling a dead bird. If you do not have gloves, insert your hand into a plastic bag, grasp the bird carefully and invert the bag over the bird. The bag should be tied and then placed inside a second tied bag.
· Double-bagging prevents cross-contamination of individual birds and leaking containers that may contaminate vehicles and handlers during transportation.
· If the bird is to be submitted for testing, take the bird to the nearest local health unit.
· If you cannot drop off the bird right away, then keep it cool in an ice chest until such time that it can be delivered to the local health unit.

West Nile virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes to humans, horses and other animals after feeding on diseased birds, which are the host animals. Symptoms of human West Nile virus infections typically begin within 14 days following the insect bite and consist of fever, muscle and joint aches, listlessness, and in most severe cases, headaches which may indicate encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus infection; avoiding mosquitoes is the best prevention.

“Very few people bitten by West Nile virus infected mosquitoes experience anything beyond a day or two of feeling mild flu-like symptoms,” Parsley said. “Fewer than one percent of those bitten by an infected mosquito develop severe illness. Those at greatest risk are the very old and those with underlying health problems. The surest way to stop the spread of these mosquito-borne diseases is prevention, and every household can take action.” Last year, 28 West Nile infections were reported in Arkansas residents. Three of these resulted in death.

To reduce your risk of contracting the virus, follow these protective measures:
· Stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active, usually at dusk and dawn.
· When it is necessary to be outdoors, wear protective clothing and use an approved mosquito repellent.
· Drain standing water from areas around your home.

Use the following precautions when using repellents containing DEET:
· Store out of the reach of children and read all instructions on the label before applying.
· Do not allow young children to apply DEET themselves.
· Do not apply DEET directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then put it on the child, avoiding the child’s face and hands.
· Do not apply repellents to clothing or to skin that is covered by clothing.
· Do not apply repellents in enclosed areas.
· Do not apply directly to your face.
· Wash all treated skin after returning indoors.

If you believe you or your child is having an adverse reaction to a repellent containing DEET, wash the treated area immediately and call your health care provider.

Two insect repellents have recently been approved by the EPA and are recommended along with DEET by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for protection against mosquitoes that
may carry the West Nile Virus. The first is Picaridin, which is a chemical compound found in many insect repellents popular in Europe, Australia, Asia and Latin America. Evidence shows it works very well and is equally as effective as DEET for personal protection. Picaridin is not to be used on children under the age of three. The second is oil of lemon eucalyptus, which is plant-derived and is as effective as low concentrations of DEET for prevention of mosquito bites. Both products are widely
available now, and offer good alternatives to products containing DEET. DEET continues to be the most effective choice when long hours of exposure to mosquitoes are anticipated or when rigorous physical activity is planned, which can diminish the effectiveness of the repellent due to perspiration. As with any product, follow label directions carefully and use only in the manner described.

Mosquitoes can breed in any body of water, from small containers such as tires and tin cans, to large bodies of water like lakes or marshes. These breeding places create a variety of mosquito problems.

To help stop mosquitoes from breeding, Arkansans should:
· Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.
· Remove all discarded tires from your property.
· Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors. Make sure roof gutters drain properly and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
· Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use. Change the water in birdbaths.
· Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
· Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
· Drain water from pool covers.
· Use landscaping to eliminate stagnant water that collects on your property.
· Make sure all windows and doors have screens in good repair.

The Division of Health reasserted today that there are no confirmed cases of West Nile virus in humans in Arkansas this year, but will continue to monitor the state with regard to mosquito-borne diseases. The CDC is providing a West Nile virus hotline: 1-888-246-2675; 1-888-246-2857 (Spanish). For the latest up to date mapping information on West Nile Virus activity in Arkansas and throughout the Nation, visit the DOH website at www.healthyarkansas.com/services/westnilevirus_main.htm.

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