LAWRENCE COUNTY Officials to discuss virus with public

Officials are testing only dead blue jays, crows, hawks and owls for the West Nile virus.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- With the discovery of two dead birds infected with the West Nile virus, Lawrence County officials are planning two meetings to educate the public about the disease.
Meetings are planned for 7 p.m. Aug. 19 in George Washington Intermediate School, 101 W. Euclid Ave., New Castle, and 7 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Tree of Life Wellness Center, corner of Sims and Beatty streets, Ellwood City.
"We want to clear up any confusion and talk about what the West Nile virus is, its symptoms and what we are doing to be proactive in the county," said Janice Alberico, director of the Lawrence County Penn State Cooperative Extension Office. Penn State is monitoring mosquito pools in the county for the virus.
The disease can be deadly to the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. It is transmitted by mosquitoes.
They also expect to explain what people should be looking for when they discover dead birds. Not all birds are suitable for testing for the disease, she said.
State officials are accepting only recently dead blue jays, crows, hawks and owls -- birds they believe are most susceptible to the disease.
So far a dead blue jay found in New Castle and a dead crow in Neshannock Township have tested positive for the virus.
Alberico said her office is now collecting mosquitoes within a two-mile radius of those areas and testing them for the virus.
"If we find a positive mosquito pool ... we will likely be doing some spraying, depending on the species of mosquito," she said.
The Penn State Cooperative Extension, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Clark Mosquito Company, based in Chicago, will decide what action to take, Alberico said. The Clark Mosquito Company was hired by the county to help handle any problems with the virus.
Alberico said her office has been inundated with calls since the virus was found in the two birds. No human cases have been reported in the county.
She said several other dead birds were sent out for testing this week, and they should know sometime next week if they are infected with the virus.
Most were found in the northern end of the county, and some were found in Shenango Township, she said.

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