The Vernon County Health Department in Viroqua reports a dead crow found in Westby Sept. 16 has tested positive for West Nile virus.
This is the first bird that tested positive for the virus in the county since surveillance for the virus began May 1.
A dead blue jay found in neighboring Juneau County July 23 also tested positive for the virus, which is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by feeding on infected birds, and mosquitoes will be around even in cooler weather until the first freeze.
County residents should take some simple steps to protect themselves against mosquito bites. The best way to avoid the disease is to reduce exposure to and eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
The Health Department recommends the following:
• Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
• Apply insect repellant to clothing as well as exposed skin, since mosquitoes may bite through clothing.
• Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry.
• Properly dispose of items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or discarded tires.
• Clean roof gutters and downspouts for proper drainage.
• Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.
• Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days.
• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.
• Trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during daylight hours.
• Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.
The majority of people (80%) infected with West Nile virus do not get sick. Those who do usually experience mild symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle ache, rash, and fatigue. Less than 1% of people infected get seriously ill with symptoms that include high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, mental confusion, tremors, confusion, paralysis, and coma. Older adults (age 50+) and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of developing central nervous system illness that can be fatal.
The Wisconsin Division of Public Health will continue surveillance for West Nile virus until the end of the mosquito season.
To report a sick or dead crow, blue jay, or raven, call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610.