A crow found Aug. 5 in Jefferson County has tested positive for West Nile virus. This is the first bird to test positive for the virus in Jefferson County since monitoring began May 1.

“The positive bird means that residents of Jefferson County need to be more careful to prevent mosquito bites,” Director/Health Officer Gail Scott said.

West Nile virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes get the virus by feeding on infected birds.

Most people who are infected with West Nile virus do not get sick. Those who do become ill usually have mild symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle ache, rash, and fatigue. Less than 1 percent of people infected with the virus get seriously ill with symptoms that include high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, tremors, confusion, paralysis and coma. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of developing central nervous system illness that can lead to death.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has monitored the spread of West Nile virus since 2001 among wild birds, horses, mosquitoes and people. During 2002, the state documented its first human infections and 52 cases were reported that year.

During 2018, 33 cases of West Nile virus infection were reported among Wisconsin residents. West Nile virus infections in humans have been reported from June through October; however, most reported becoming ill with West Nile virus in August and September.

“Jefferson County residents should be aware of West Nile virus and take some simple steps to protect themselves against mosquito bites,” said Scott. “West Nile virus is here to stay. The best way to protect yourself is to reduce contact with mosquitoes and get rid of areas where they breed.”

The Jefferson County Health Department recommends the following:

• Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

• Apply an insect repellant with DEET, IR3535, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to exposed skin and clothing.

• Make sure window and door screens are intact to prevent mosquitoes from getting in.

• Prevent mosquitoes from breeding by removing stagnant water from items around your property, such as tin cans, plastic containers, flower pots, discarded tires, roof gutters, and downspouts.

• Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.

• Change the water in bird baths and pet dishes at least every three days.

• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.

• Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas, and trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.

Public Health Madison & Dane County recently reported its first case of a dead bird with West Nile virus.

DHS will continue surveillance for West Nile virus until the end of the mosquito season. To report a sick or dead crow, blue jay or raven, call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610.

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