Crows infected with West Nile Virus found in Washtenaw County

BY TYLER BOERSEN
For the Daily
Published September 23, 2001

Public health officials are testing mosquitoes in an area of Ann Arbor where a crow afflicted with the mosquito-born West Nile Virus was found.

The virus, which first made headlines when discovered in New York City in 1999, was discovered in Ann Arbor earlier this summer.

Though there have been no reports of human cases here, officials at the Michigan Department of Community Health and at the Washtenaw County Health Department are taking the threat seriously. MDCH officials have been testing dead crows for the past several months. Of the approximately ten crows found in Washtenaw County, only one tested positive for the West Nile Virus.

Linda Lantry, the Washtenaw County communicative disease coordinator said the testing is not an unusual practice.

Officials have increased this year"s number of traps as a result of the possible threat, Lantry said.

According to materials published by the National Centers for Disease Control, less than 1 percent of mosquitoes are affected. Based on research in New York, officials have found that even fewer are likely to transmit the virus to humans.

"The risk (of contracting the West Nile Virus) is very low," Lantry said.

"We know from New York that even though there are many mosquitoes, very few people get infected, and even fewer experience illness," he added.

Symptoms of the West Nile Virus may include a fever, headache, skin rash or swollen lymph glands. In rare cases, usually in people over the age of 50, the virus may cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. The CDC has found that less than one percent of those infected will develop a severe illness.

"I have never even heard of (the West Nile Virus) before," said Lauren Freyermuth, an LSA freshman.

Because many students like Freyermuth do not know much about the virus, medical professionals are working to let students know what they can do to keep safe.

Lantry recommends that students limit the time they spend outside at dusk.

"If you spend a long period of time outside, you should use a mosquito repellent containing the chemical DEET," Lantry said. She also recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and spraying repellent onto clothing to prevent mosquitoes from biting through thin fabric.

It is also recommended students control the mosquito population by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds. This includes draining standing water from flower pots and from low spots on lawns.

University Health Services will be on alert for the West Nile Virus as well.

"At this time we are working on updating our clinicians on the symptoms," said Dr. Hernan Drobny, a UHS physician.