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Back To Vidyya New York Birds Found With West Nile Virus

Outbreak Of The Virus Responsible For Seven Deaths Last Year

Dead crows, two on Long Island and one each in Westchester and Rockland Counties, have tested positive for the West Nile virus, according to New York state health officials.

The test results, released by the state to local health departments on Friday, bring to eight the number of confirmed cases of West Nile virus in birds in New York State, with another case confirmed in New Jersey last month. In addition, Westchester County officials have said that they suspected the virus had caused the death of another bird but that they were awaiting further test results.

The West Nile is a mosquito-borne virus that killed 7 people and infected 62 others in the New York area last year. As part of a regional program aimed at detecting the virus, which can cause encephalitis in humans and can be fatal, state officials have been testing dead birds and mosquitoes and taking blood samples from live chickens, which carry the virus but do not get sick from it.

A spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Health, said the findings were not surprising, given that hundreds of birds across the state were infected last year, even in places, like Rockland County, where no human cases were reported.

"We don't think that people need to be alarmed," she said. "We don't think they need to avoid outdoor activities. But they should be aware that the infection has surfaced in birds."

Since the winter, when city health officials found evidence of the virus in hibernating mosquitoes in Fort Totten, Queens, the virus has been detected only in birds.

There have been no confirmed cases in New York City, where the outbreak began, in northern Queens, late last summer. The two Long Island cases in dead crows, both in Suffolk County, were the first cases this year on Long Island. Those test results were first reported in the New York Newsday on 06-July-2000.

In Westchester, a red-tailed hawk that was found dead in February tested positive for the virus, but officials determined that the bird had been infected during last year's outbreak. The dead crow, which was found in New Rochelle, was the first confirmed case during mosquito season, officials said.

In Rockland County, the crow that tested positive for the virus last week brought to five the number of birds in that county found to have died from the virus since local health departments began sending dead birds to a lab in Albany for testing earlier this year, state health officials said.

It is unknown if the birds, found in West Babylon and Lindenhurst, had been recently infected with the virus or had picked it up during last year's outbreak. However, experts say crows tend to die quickly after contracting West Nile infections, making it likely the birds caught the virus this year.

Neither of the New York geographic areas - Long Island or Westchester county - has plans to spray mosquito pesticides in their areas. But officials say that they will continue aggressive mosquito-prevention measures, including dumping chemicals that kill mosquito eggs into catch basins and other bodies of water.

For more information on the West Nile Virus, try the 15-May-2000 issue of Vidyya.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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