Diseased bird found in Oklahoma County

Wednesday, August 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A dead mockingbird found in Edmond was infected with the West Nile virus, the 11th such case in the state and the first in Oklahoma County, health officials said Wednesday.

No cases of the potentially fatal virus have shown up in humans or other animals in Oklahoma.

In Louisiana, five residents have died from the virus and state officials have boosted mosquito-spraying efforts and stocked up on insect repellent. An additional 14 people have contracted the mosquito-borne disease in that state.

It's the worst outbreak of the virus since it was first detected in the United States three years ago.

Oklahoma officials said residents should use repellant and eliminate mosquito breeding areas such as stagnant water, but they should not panic.

``It alarms people and we're trying to not panic them, but keep them informed,'' said Kathy Dyer, executive assistant of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. ``It's no reason to stay indoors.''

Dyer said the infected mockingbird did not necessarily contract the virus in Edmond. She said birds leave their flock when they become sick.

The state's first confirmed case was a dead crow found in Tulsa County last month. Until the Edmond bird, the virus was confined to eastern Oklahoma.

Cases were found in Wagoner, Okmulgee, Pittsburg and Carter counties.

Mosquitoes transmit the illness from infected birds to people. Most people bitten by an infected mosquito will show no ill effects. Some, however, will show flu-like symptoms and a few can develop potentially fatal encephalitis.

West Nile virus cannot be transmitted from one human to another or from animals to humans. Children younger than 5 and people who are older than 50 and have health problems are most susceptible to infections from the disease.

From July 15 through Tuesday, the state lab received 312 birds.

The disease is most easily spotted in blue jays, crows, hawks and owls.

Health officials are recommending to stay indoors during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active and to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and use insect repellent containing DEET when going outside.

Property owners may also help by removing sources of standing water where mosquitoes spawn such as bird baths, pools and pet water bowls. Keeping grass and weeds trimmed also helps.