West Nile Virus detected in St. Charles Parish birds

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 1, 2005


Staff Reporter

ST. CHARLES – Two wild birds and a sentinel chicken have tested positive for the West Nile Virus in St. Charles Parish.

Mosquito Control General Manager Wayne Machado said both wild birds were found dead and then tested. The chicken tested positive during a routine check.

“Both of the birds were found dead in St. Charles Parish,” Machado said. “A blue jay was found and tested on April 12, and on June 13 a hawk was found and tested. The test were sent to the state lab, which came back positive. The chicken was part of our sentinel flock. There are several flocks in the River Parishes region.”

Routine checks for diseases, including West Nile, are conducted on the chickens. Machado said three chickens are kept separate from the flock in order to do testing. The tests are done every week, and the chickens are rotated, so each chicken gets tested every other week.

“The chicken did test positive for West Nile,” he said. “But it didn’t die. Chickens do not normally die from the virus, unlike the many birds that do.”

Machado said even though the cases of humans infected with the West Nile Virus in Louisiana is “few and far between,” it is never a bad idea to protect yourself at dusk and dawn, especially during the months of July, August and into September.

“You can help prevent the spread of the West Nile Virus by taking several steps,” he said. “First of all, any stagnant or standing water needs to be dumped and flushed out. This includes birdfeeders, pet dishes, trashcans and ditches. Also, mosquitoes breed in Bromeliads, a tropical flowering plant, because they hold water, so cutting back on bushes and shrubbery would be a good idea. To protect

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your skin it is best to use an insect repellent with Deet in it, but depending on your skin type it is best to consult your physician.”

The virus is transmitted to humans by Southern House Mosquitoes, which are the very mosquitoes we see around the home. The mosquitoes pick up the virus when they bite an infected bird.

“The bird acts as a reservoir,” he said. “Different birds carry the virus in intervals in their blood stream. When the mosquito bites the bird it is then infected and can transmit the virus to humans and other animals. It has not been proven that birds can spread the virus.”

Symptoms of the virus are like a horrible case of influenza or the “flu,” according to Machado.

“Most people who were infected with the virus said it involved a horrid headache,” Machado said. “If you have been bitten and have these symptoms, it is best to see your family doctor or local health unit.”