No human cases of West Nile virus have been found in Ohio.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- West Nile virus has been confirmed in a blue jay found in Poland Township.
The dead bird was submitted to the Ohio Department of Agriculture on Aug. 15 for testing.
Matthew Stefanak, Mahoning County health commissioner, said West Nile virus, a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, has been detected in birds from several Ohio counties since mid-August, but no human cases have been found in Ohio.
"The West Nile virus is not spread person-to-person. It is only spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito, not through contact with birds," Stefanak said.
Earlier cases: The Poland bird is the most recent reported with West Nile virus in Ohio. On Sept. 4, the Ohio Department of Health reported seven infected birds: five found in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland; and one each in Franklin and Lucas counties, which include Columbus and Toledo, respectively. The Poland case is the first in the Mahoning Valley.
Ohio's first case of West Nile virus in a bird was confirmed in early August in a blue jay found in Lake County, about 25 miles northeast of Cleveland.
Stefanak said West Nile virus is primarily a wild bird disease that can affect humans, although symptoms are generally mild. Less than 1 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito will become severely ill, he said. Those stricken suffer flu-like symptoms. The virus is mainly a concern for the elderly and people with weak immune systems.
Precautions: Stefanak recommended area residents take personal prevention measures, such as making sure screens are secure and without tears, avoiding outdoor activities between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are likely to be biting, covering up by wearing shoes, socks, long pants, long-sleeved shirts and using mosquito repellent.
Also, he urged residents to eliminate standing water in places such as bird baths, old tires, tin cans or other water-holding containers, to help reduce the number of mosquito breeding sites.
The Ohio Department of Health has established a toll-free West Nile virus information line for general questions from the public at (866) 634-2968 staffed from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Also West Nile virus information can be found at the ODH website www.odh.state.oh.us.