Pennsylvania has found 36 infected birds so far this year.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County received its first report of the West Nile virus this week when a dead blue jay tested positive.
State health officials said the bird was found in New Castle, but they did not know the exact location.
Testing on the bird Wednesday determined it had the virus, said Richard McGarvey, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. There have been no reports of any humans in Lawrence County being affected by the virus, he added.
West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that can infect animals and humans. It can be deadly for older people or those with weakened immune systems. It cannot be spread by humans or other animals.
Anyone who believes they have the symptoms of the virus -- fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands -- should see a doctor, McGarvey said.
He added that anyone finding birds or other animals that have died within 48 hours or have died for no apparent reason should contact the state to have them tested.
West Nile virus can cause encephalitis or inflammation of the brain. Others infected by it may have no symptoms or experience mild flulike symptoms that are not life-threatening, McGarvey said.
West Nile has been found in dead birds or other animals in nine other Pennsylvania counties this year, but Lawrence County is the first in the western end of the state.
Other counties where it was located are in the middle or southeastern end of Pennsylvania, said the state Department of Health.
So far, 37 birds and seven mosquito pools have tested positive for the virus in those counties, McGarvey said. Nearly 400 birds have been tested.
Last year, state officials found 361 infected birds in the state with the first one being found about this time in 2001, McGarvey said. The nearest infected bird was found in Erie County, he said. Three people statewide were diagnosed with West Nile virus, and all recovered, McGarvey said.
Officials believe the virus is present on much of the East Coast and has spread beyond the Mississippi River.
McGarvey said people should take precautions against contracting the virus as they do with other diseases such as Lyme disease.
Standing water that attracts mosquitoes should be eliminated, and long-sleeved shirts and slacks should be worn in the early day and late evening when mosquitoes are active, he said. Mosquito repellents should also be used if they don't aggravate a person's skin, McGarvey said.
"If they take a common-sense approach, it shouldn't be a problem. And certainly go to your doctor if you feel ill," he said.