West Nile virus has turned up in Carroll County for the first time this year, in testing on a dead crow found in Finksburg, the state health department said yesterday.
The crow was found last week in the 2100 block of Spencer Lane near Routes 140 and 91. With another collected in Baltimore County, it raised the number of confirmed infected birds in Maryland for the year to 178, the department said.
Both specimens were collected between Friday and Monday and tested as part of Maryland's continuing surveillance program.
State and county officials stressed yesterday that no immediate public health threat exists and that no human cases have been detected in Maryland.
"People shouldn't be worried," said Larry L. Leitch, director of the Carroll County Health Department. "This is our first bird and no positive mosquitoes have been found in the county. So at this point, there really is no need to worry."
The West Nile virus can be transferred to people through mosquito bites after the insects bite infected birds, most often crows.
Although most people infected feel no symptoms, a small number suffer from headaches, skin rashes, swollen lymph glands and body aches. In less than 1 percent of infections, people experience worse problems, including high fever, disorientation, coma and fatal inflammation of brain tissue. The elderly and those with impaired immune systems are more vulnerable.
The virus has been common in humans and birds in Africa and the Middle East but was not detected in the United States until 1999, when 62 people in the New York area contracted serious cases of the disease. Seven died. Last year, 17 people in the New York area became seriously ill with the disease, and one person died.
Only one death has been tied to the disease this year - a 71-year-old Atlanta woman died Aug. 11. But with more dead crows found to have the disease, Maryland health officials are urging residents to discourage the reproduction of mosquitoes. They recommend cleaning out rain gutters, removing old tires that have water collecting in them and removing other standing pools of water where mosquitoes might breed.
People are encouraged to report any dead or dying birds by calling the state hot line at 866- 866-CROW.