Citizens can help the Clatsop County Public Health Department keep alert for West Nile virus. The virus is spread by mosquito bites, and usually presents as a flu-like illness. The first case this year in Oregon of mosquitoes that tested positive for the virus was reported recently in Malheur County.
Public health officials monitor for the presence of West Nile virus by testing certain dead birds that may have become infected through a mosquito bite. Birds of the Corvid family, which includes crows, ravens, blue jays, Stellar's jays and magpies, are most sensitive to becoming ill and are the ones used for surveillance.
You can help the county monitor for West Nile virus by reporting dead birds of the Corvid family that have died within the previous 24 hours, and that have not obviously died from trauma such as hitting a window, being hit by a car or attacked by a predator or a death related to possible pesticide spraying.
To report a dead bird, call Clatsop County Environmental Health at (503) 325-8500.
Although no human cases of the disease have been reported in Oregon so far in 2013, 12 human cases were identified in 2012. Clatsop County Public Health Environmental Health Specialist Maureen Taylor said that there is a potential risk of infection, and mosquitoes have been making their presence known thanks to a mild winter and high springtime temperatures.
"People can avoid getting mosquito bites by taking appropriate precautions to protect themselves," she said. "Mosquito bites might seem inevitable as people head outdoors, but they don't have to be with simple precautions that can prevent the spread of West Nile virus."
— During outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are the most active, protect yourself by using mosquito repellants containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or Picardin. Always follow the directions on the container for use.
— Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in mosquito-infested areas.
— Around your home, eliminate sources of standing water that are a breeding ground for mosquitoes, including watering troughs, bird baths, clogged gutters and old tires.
— Make sure screen doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly.
Dr. Emilio DeBess, Oregon Public Health Authority veterinarian, also recommends protecting animals against mosquito bites. Pet owners should contact their veterinarian about topical mosquito repellants. Horse owners should consult their veterinarian about vaccinating their horses for West Nile virus.
Four out of five people who contract West Nile virus show no symptoms, and those who do usually experience only mild symptoms such as fever, headaches and nausea. In rare cases, however, more severe reactions can occur, such as disorientation and convulsions.
For more information on West Nile virus go to www.public.health.oregon.gov.