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Jefferson County bird tests positive for West Nile virus

Posted: 6:51 PM, Aug 12, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-12 19:51:26-04
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Jefferson County officials said a crow has tested positive for West Nile virus.

"Crows and bluejays, they're more likely to have West Nile virus," said Gail Scott, director and health officer for the Jefferson County Health Department. "I wouldn't be alarmed, but I would just make sure people take precautions as they do for tick bites as well."

Scott said they typically see a bird test positive for the virus around now. She said mosquitoes feed on infected birds and transfer the virus to other animals and humans. However, it's not as dangerous as it might sound.

"I've heard of people who go on to develop severe headache or confusion, muscle weakness," Scott said. "About 80% of people might get infected with the virus and don't have any symptoms at all. About 20% will have symptoms, and it's fever, headache, joint pain, sometimes vomiting, diarrhea, sometimes a rash, body aches."

However, if symptoms arise, it's best to see a doctor right away as 1% of patients could have serious trouble.

"Severe symptoms can be a high fever, severe headaches, neck stiffness," Scott said. "Sometimes you can get meningitis or swelling in the brain. Some more severe neurological symptoms and it can lead to coma or death. That's rare, though. It's really nothing to panic about, but just remember that ticks and mosquitoes both can carry disease."

For the most part, this season has been light for mosquitoes. As more precipitation and higher temperatures come through, though, it continues to get worse and elevates the threat for West Nile virus.

"It's really nothing to panic about, but just remember that ticks and mosquitoes both can carry disease." — Gail Scott, director and health officer for the Jefferson County Health Department

"I was on a worksite a week ago," said LaVern Georgson, University of Wisconsin agriculture agent educator. "I spent four to five hours out there and didn't notice much mosquito activity. I was there yesterday, doing some work again, and the mosquitoes were much more intense. A lot more prevalent and more of a nuisance."

Once a bird with West Nile virus is reported, counties such as Jefferson no longer test because they know it is there. However, if birds are dying in your neighborhood, you can report it to the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610. Visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website for more information.