West Nile case found in county Rabid bat found in Calera

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2003

A dead crow found in the Meadow Brook community last week tested positive for West Nile Virus, the first evidence of the disease in Shelby County this year, according to Health Department officials.

The dead bird, found at a private residence on Thursday, was one of eight collected for testing by Jim Hollins, environmental director of the Shelby County Health Department.

&uot;We’ve tested a lot of birds,&uot; Hollins said. &uot;This is the first positive we’ve gotten for Shelby County.&uot;

There were several cases of human infection of West Nile Virus in Alabama last year; however, none were reported in Shelby County.

Five birds in the county did test positive for the disease through August 2002, Hollins said.

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-born disease that in certain populations can cause Encephalitis, a potentially fatal brain infection.

The disease is spread when infected mosquitoes bite birds, animals and people, Hollins said.

It can not be passed from human to human or from animals to humans.

Symptoms of West Nile Virus are characterized as flu-like and generally occur within three to 15 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito, Hollins said.

However, most individuals experience no symptoms, he said.

Populations at largest risk for the virus include the elderly and infants or those with weakened immune systems.

&uot;Having a positive test for West Nile in a certain area should heighten the awareness that there is West Nile Virus in that area,&uot; Hollins said.

He said residents should &uot;be a little more cautious of eliminating standing water and taking steps to protect themselves.&uot;

Using insect spray; wearing loose fitting, long-sleeve clothing; and reducing outdoor activity between dusk and dawn are all ways to combat the spread of West Nile Virus.

Mosquitoes seem to be particularly attracted to dark colored clothing, colognes, perfumes and fragrant lotions, so avoiding them can also lessen the risk of mosquito bites, Hollins said.

Meanwhile, the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency is taking steps to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus while attacking the source, mosquitoes.

The EMA mosquito spraying program will continue until the fall, when mosquito activity naturally declines due to cooler temperatures.

The Shelby County EMA sprays for mosquitoes by request only in unincorporated areas.

Officials ask that residents who live inside city limits contact their local municipality for mosquito control options.

West Nile Virus wasn’t the only concern for the Shelby County Health Department last week.

Health Department officials responded to a call last Tuesday from a Calera woman whose dogs had been playing with a bat.

The animal was secured by the Calera Animal Hospital and sent to a state lab where it tested positive for rabies, Hollins said.

The health department recommended the dogs be quarantined and any people who might have been exposed, including the woman and at least one child, seek immediate treatment.

While rabies is generally transmitted through saliva, officials said they did not want to take any chances with anyone who might have handled the bat or been exposed by the dogs.

&uot;We can’t take any chances with rabies because it is irreversible,&uot; Hollins said. &uot;Once a human starts showing signs of rabies, it’s too late.&uot;

Hollins said the disease can be fatal but can be treated with a post rabies vaccine if done so before symptoms begin.

He said rabies is not rare in wild animal populations, but exposure for humans and domestic animals is not common.

&uot;Citizens should be aware they shouldn’t play with or handle any animal from the wild, especially one that is acting out of its natural habitat,&uot; Hollins said