Around The Region

August 07, 2009

West Nile virus found in Shore mosquitoes

Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus have been detected in Maryland for the first time this year. The bugs turned up in samples collected last month in Pocomoke City on the Eastern Shore. The virus "typically appears at this time in the summer, so we are not surprised with this positive finding," said state Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. The virus is present throughout the state, and abundant spring rains have boosted mosquito populations, he said. But it's "a reminder to all residents to continue protecting themselves against mosquito bites and to conduct backyard mosquito control activities." Less than 1 percent of people infected ever exhibit symptoms. But people older than 50 and those with weakened immune systems can become seriously ill. Human cases of West Nile encephalitis typically begin to appear in late August. None have been reported this summer. Fourteen Marylanders were hospitalized with the virus last year, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Web site, down from a peak of 73 in 2003, when eight West Nile-related deaths were reported in Maryland. The state has had only one human fatality since then.

-Frank D. Roylance

Senate staff member named O'Malley campaign manager

Gov. Martin O'Malley's re-election effort announced Thursday it has hired Thomas Russell as campaign manager. Most recently, Russell served as staff director for the U.S. Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, directing strategic planning for the caucus. Before then, he was deputy chief of staff for Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat whose campaign he managed in 2006. With the economic downturn likely to figure prominently in the 2010 election, O'Malley's campaign laid out some key issues he's likely to highlight, including gains in public education and the state's top bond rating.

- Laura Smitherman

Frederick school board violated Open Meetings Act

Maryland's Open Meetings Compliance Board has ruled that the Frederick County Board of Education violated the state's Open Meetings Act when it lingered too long in a closed session. The Frederick News-Post reported Thursday that the compliance board issued its ruling this week after investigating the newspaper's complaint about the April 7 meeting. The board met behind closed doors for 80 minutes, ostensibly to get legal advice on a funding issue. Afterward, school board President Jean Smith said the closed session included discussion of whether all board members were in agreement on the issue. The compliance board said the private meeting included discussion that went beyond the legal advice.

- Associated Press

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