Friday, July 19, 2002

West Nile Health department monitors wildlife

Live birds tested for virus

By Janice Morse,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Public awareness of the West Nile virus is heightening, say officials who are stepping up efforts to monitor wildlife for the potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness.

        A two-man team from the Ohio Department of Health collected blood samples from live birds at the Voice of America Park in this Butler County township Thursday. Earlier this week, the team gathered samples in Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties.

[photo] Ohio Department of Health intern Jeff Clayton helps capture birds for testing
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        The live trappings at the park followed a positive test Tuesday in a mosquito pool on Princeton-Glendale Road in West Chester. Jeff Clayton, 25, and Jason Marteney, 22, Ohio State University veterinary students, are helping the state health department check birds.

        “I hope what we're doing helps,” Mr. Clayton said.

        Feeders stocked with seed lured birds to fly into barely-visible “mist netting.” The young men carefully disentangled the birds and placed them in mesh holding bags. Then they drew blood samples from each bird, logged information, and released them. They were aiming for 50 samples; test results will take several days to a week, officials said.

        The live trappings are designed to help gauge the presence of the West Nile virus, which can cause brain and spinal cord swelling; it killed nine people in Eastern states last year. Only about 1 percent of mosquitoes carry the virus and only 1 percent of people bitten will become infected, but there is no medicine to counteract the virus in humans, authorities said.

        So far, no case of human infection has been verified in Ohio, although more than 120 dead birds in 41 Ohio counties have tested positive; among 312 live birds tested as of mid-May, only one Franklin County bird had yielded a positive test as of Friday, said Kim Winpisinger, a state health department epidemiologist.

        “One of the real positive things that we're seeing is that everyone's aware of (the virus), without being panicked about it,” said Patricia Burg, director of the Butler County Health Department. Wearing mosquito repellent — and reapplying it regularly — is an important preventative, she said.

        Just down the road from VOA Park, at the Tylersville Road Wal-Mart store, some shoppers were looking over repellents; Cutter All-Family Insect Repellent Wipes (18 for $3.77, in a plastic case) seemed to be the most popular seller.

        Outside the store, shopper Terri Tomaszewski, a 39-year-old mother of two from West Chester, said she has been sure to use repellent lately, and, “since now they've found it in that mosquito pool here, it's getting a little more scary.”

        She works at Kubicki Equine Center in Maineville, where she also boards a horse, and says the horses there were recently inoculated against West Nile.

        Ms. Tomaszewski was pleased to hear about the stepped-up testing on live birds locally. “I think that's probably a good way for them to get a handle on it,” she said.


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