Crow in Harford infected with the West Nile virus

First bird to test positive this year in Baltimore area

24 found in state

July 26, 2002|By Ben Piven | Ben Piven,SUN STAFF

The first bird in the Baltimore metropolitan area to test positive for the West Nile virus this year has turned up in Harford County, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said yesterday.

A crow was found in the 3700 block of Federal Hill Road in Jarrettsville, officials said. Until the most recent find, all cases were in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

This year, 24 infected birds have been found in Maryland. Last year, the total reached 454 - nearly half of those were in Baltimore. Experts say the drought has kept the numbers down. Standing water is a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can transmit the virus to birds and humans.

Of the 24 infected birds found this year, 23 were crows and one was a grackle. Infected birds typically live for about seven days after initial exposure to the virus.

State officials say that 5 percent of birds tested this year had the virus, down from 30 percent last year.

"State, local and federal agencies are continuing their collaborative efforts to carefully monitor for the West Nile virus to ensure the public's health and safety," said Arlene Stephenson, deputy secretary of Public Health Services. "The public can help by educating themselves on prevention and by reporting any recently dead or dying crow, blue jay, grackle or raptor."

Most human beings bitten by West Nile-infected mosquitoes show no symptoms. Four percent or 5 percent may experience flulike symptoms, while fewer than 1 percent will develop life-threatening infections, officials say.

Suspected West Nile cases can be reported at 1-866-866-2769 (CROW) or online at http://edcp. org/wn/html/wndeadbird.cfm.

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