West Nile virus verified in Grants Pass; no sign disease has spread

A jay found dead in Grants Pass has tested positive for West Nile virus.

The jay, collected Sunday in an area near 10th Street and tested at a state lab this week, was the first bird with the disease in Josephine County this year, said Belle Shepherd, the county's public health director.

The county doesn't test mosquitoes and has found no other evidence of the disease, yet, she said. The county didn't have any activity from the virus reported last year.

Jackson County found the virus in mosquitoes trapped two weeks ago at a pond in the East Gregory Road area, but subsequent tests around the area haven't turned up any additional pockets of the disease-causing agent, said Gary Stevens, director of Jackson County's environmental health division.

Mosquitoes spread the virus by biting infected birds and transferring it when they bite other birds, horses and humans.

Only 20 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito will get sick, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Most infections are mild, with fever and flu-like symptoms, but severe cases, mostly in people with compromised immune systems, can cause inflammation of the brain and even death. The United States recorded 3,404 confirmed cases of West Nile virus and 98 deaths in 2007..

Public health officials advise people to avoid mosquito bites by using an effective repellent, preferably one that contains DEET, picardin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. People also can avoid being outside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active and wearing long pants and shirts with long sleeves.

Keeping screens on windows and doors in good repair and eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed provide additional protection.

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