Six birds in Oklahoma test positive for West Nile virus

Thursday, July 24th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Six dead birds in Oklahoma have tested positive for the West Nile virus, the state Health Department confirmed Thursday.

Three horses tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus earlier this year.

No human cases have been reported yet this season in Oklahoma.

The birds include a crow from Carter County and one blue jay each from Beaver, Cleveland, Jackson, Muskogee and Oklahoma counties. The infected birds were found dead from July 11 to July 15.

``The finding of infected birds through our state surveillance program suggests that higher levels of West Nile virus transmission are now occurring in Oklahoma,'' said state veterinarian Kristy Bradley.

People who spend time outside should try to prevent mosquito bites by covering bare skin and using insect repellent, she said.

West Nile first reached Oklahoma last year, when 21 human cases of the disease _ including two deaths _ were confirmed. More than 430 birds and 960 horses tested positive for the virus last year.

Oklahomans who find dead birds, particularly crows, blue jays, cardinals, hawks, owls or eagles, should tell their local health department, Bradley said.

West Nile was first detected in the United States in the fall of 1999. Last year, there was a record 4,000 cases across the country.

About two of every 10 people bitten by an infected mosquito will experience illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Serious illness and death are possible, particularly for people over age 50.