State confirms West Nile virus found in 4 county birds

HUDSON—The state Department of Health has found four crows from the Craryville, Valatie and Greenport areas that tested positive for West Nile virus.

The Columbia County Department of Health announced the finding in a press release issued Thursday afternoon, September 3, which also said that as of July 31, 2009 only one case of human West Nile virus has been reported in this year, and that case was in the Bronx in New York City.

The state health department website says that while West Nile Virus can cause severe illness and death in some cases, “the chances of a person becoming ill with [West Nile Virus] are small.”

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes, and the health department advises that taking protective measures against mosquito bites is the best way to avoid contracting the illness. Many mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile Virus lay their eggs in stagnant water around the home.  “Any standing water around the yard can provide a home for mosquitoes to breed. Mosquitoes can then enter houses through broken screens or unscreened windows or doors,” Ed Coons, county public health sanitarian said in the release. Mosquitoes can breed in any stagnant water that lasts more than four days.

To reduce the mosquito population around homes, the county health department advises taking the following steps to reduce or eliminate standing water:

•Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers

•Drill drain holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors

•Make sure that roof gutters drain properly, and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall

•Turn over wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.

•Change the water in bird baths twice a week.

•Dispose of used tires by calling the nearest garbage convenience center or the public works department to find out how to dispose of them properly

•Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.

•Clean and properly chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs

•Drain water from pool covers

•Use landscaping to eliminate standing water wherever it collects

•Make sure windows and doors have screens in good condition.

The state Department of Health says on its website,, “Most people infected with the West Nile virus will not have any type of illness.” But about 20% of people who become infected will develop West Nile fever, with mild symptoms that included fever, headache, body aches, and occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. The symptoms can be so mild that they can go unnoticed.

The symptoms of severe infection, which result in West Nile encephalitis or meningitis, include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, and coma. Health experts estimate that 1 in 150 persons infected with the West Nile virus will develop the more severe form of the illness.

For more information or to report dead birds, particularly crows, call the Columbia County Health Department at (518) 828-3358 during regular business hours Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on West Nile virus, visit the state Department of Health’s website,, and click on the link on the right side menu for “Diseases & Conditions.”


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