Officials say there are protective steps everyone can take.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
WARREN -- A dead blue jay discovered in Southington has tested positive for the West Nile virus.
The potentially fatal virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, can infect birds and horses, as well as humans.
Less than 1 percent of people bitten by mosquitoes carrying the disease become severely ill, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The disease caused seven deaths in New York in 1999, the first year it was discovered in this country.
It has subsequently traveled to 20 states and nine Ohio counties, said Jay Carey, a spokesman for the state department of health.
"It is something that Trumbull County residents should be concerned about, but not panic about," Carey said.
No human cases of the disease have been discovered in Ohio since the first infected blue jay was found in Lake County on Aug. 1. The virus was discovered in Mahoning County last week, in a bird collected from Poland village.
Today, officials added Ottawa and Wood counties, as well as Trumbull County, to the list of locations where infected birds have been found. The bird from Southington that tested positive was collected Aug. 16.
"Sooner or later, they were going to find it," said George Buccella, deputy health commissioner in Trumbull County. "Hopefully, with the cold weather, some of the mosquitoes will die and it won't be a problem right away."
Who's at risk: West Nile disease is primarily dangerous to people with weakened immune systems. All of the seven people killed in New York in 1999 were over age 75, according to the National Centers for Disease Control.
This year, there have been human cases of the disease in Florida and Georgia, Carey said.
Buccella said he hoped the Trumbull County Health Department will be in a position to begin a countywide anti-mosquito spraying campaign by April.
The county health department is now discussing the plan, which would involve the purchase of a pickup truck-mounted sprayer, with municipal health departments.
What to do: Steps officials recommend to minimize the risk of West Nile infection include:
U & raquo;Make sure window screens are in place and have no tears.
U & raquo;Avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, or wear long sleeves, shoes and socks and use mosquito repellent.
U & raquo;Eliminate the pools of standing water which can form in discarded tires, plastic containers, tin cans or pool covers. They can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.