June 17, 2002
STATE LAB CONFIRMS WEST NILE VIRUS IN MECKLENBURG COUNTY
Charlotte, NC - Test results from the State Laboratory of Public Health confirmed the first case of West Nile virus this year in Mecklenburg County. The Health Department received the test results this morning.
A blue jay carcass was collected from a neighborhood in the South Park area June 10. Six dead birds have been collected so far this year in Mecklenburg County.
"It's not surprising that West Nile was found here in Mecklenburg County," says Dennis Salmen, program chief for Environmental Health. "What is surprising is that it was found so early in the season."
Virologists from the State Laboratory say this is the earliest that West Nile virus has been confirmed in North Carolina. Last year, Mecklenburg County's first case of West Nile virus was confirmed in October. That bird, an American crow, was collected from a neighborhood in the University area in late September. The first case of West Nile in the state was confirmed last year in a blue jay found in Cabarrus County. West Nile virus has been found in 27 states and the District of Columbia since 1999.
Mosquitoes that feed off infected birds can spread the disease to people. Most people infected with West Nile virus don't exhibit any symptoms. Those with weakened immune systems, the elderly or the very young are in the highest risk groups. West Nile's flu-like symptoms can eventually lead to encephalitis, a potentially deadly disease in humans.
Mecklenburg County residents are reminded to keep outdoor water containers like buckets, old tires or animal drinking bowls emptied or full of fresh water in order to keep mosquitoes from breeding in them. Long sleeves, long pants and mosquito repellants containing DEET should be used when outdoors, especially by those in high risk groups.
More information about protecting yourself and eliminating mosquito-breeding areas on your property can be found on the
Health Department's Web site. Look for the "Skeeter Defeater" logo.
To report any dead birds or mosquito problems call Mecklenburg County Health Department's Environmental Control Office at 704-336-5101.