Tips for avoiding West Nile Virus

Published 7:14 pm Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Alabama Department of Public Health has confirmed four positive cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis  in horses located in Dallas County. There have been additional reports of cases in horses in Elmore and Montgomery counties; however, laboratory confirmation has not been performed.

In Baldwin and Mobile counties, four sentinel chickens have tested positive for West Nile virus. The three sentinel chickens that tested positive for WNV in Baldwin County were located in Gulf Shores, Magnolia Springs and Perdido Beach. One sentinel chicken was positive for WNV in the BelleFontaine area of South Mobile County.

Public Health receives positive case reports from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, and the agencies work together to identify areas of arboviral disease with in the state.

According to Dr. Dee W. Jones, State Public Health Veterinarian, the significance of positive horses and chickens means the virus is present in the mosquito population. He warns that the same mosquitoes that infect animals pose a risk to humans. The confirmation of viral activity is very common in the summer and fall months. Positive case counts in the state vary from year to year based on mosquito populations. The virus can only be spread through the bite of a mosquito and not from and animal.

“With many people enjoying outdoor activities, it is important that residents take every effort to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes,” said Jones. “Keep your mosquito repellent with you at all times when you are working or participating in recreational activities outdoors.”

Mosquitoes transmit EEE, WNV and other mosquito-born viruses after they feed on birds. The same mosquitoes can then infect mammals, particularly humans and horses, which can become seriously ill from the infection.

Transmission to humans and horses can be decreased by persons taking steps to avoid mosquitoes and by the use of WNV and EEE vaccine in horses. According to Jones, although there is no vaccine available for humans, vaccination for horses is very important in preventing infection in these animals.

Since mosquitoes are commonly found throughout much of Alabama, health officials offer practical strategies for the mosquito season: