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West Nile confirmed in Barboursville

Jul. 26, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Officials at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department announced Tuesday that a pool of mosquitoes in Barboursville has tested positive for West Nile virus. The number of cases is expected to trend upward, said Stan Mills, the health department's director of environmental health, in the coming weeks.

"We found one positive pool around the lake in Barboursville and we expect the instances to go higher once more testing is conducted," Mills said. Mosquitoes are sent to the West Virginia Office of Laboratory Services for viral testing.

West Nile virus, which flares up in the summer and continues into the fall, is spread by the bite of a mosquito infected when it feeds on infected birds.

Mosquito populations across the country are booming following extended periods of heat, humidity and above-average rainfall. Twenty-nine states, including West Virginia neighbors Ohio and Pennsylvania, are reporting non-human West Nile Virus activity through mid-July.

Ten states have reported nearly two dozen human West Nile infections, including three resulting in death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No cases of West Nile have been reported in Kentucky, and no human infections have been reported in the Tri-State or statewide.

"West Nile virus, like other mosquito-borne diseases, can cause symptoms that include a fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or a body rash," said Dr. Harry Tweel, director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.

Tweel said people with symptoms of concern should contact their health care providers.

While most individuals who have been exposed to WNV may not have any symptoms, Tweel cautioned that in some cases, people may develop serious illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis that can lead to hospitalization, and in rare instances, death.

Mosquito bites can largely be avoided by following the "Four Ds": dressing in long sleeves and pants when outdoors, deterring mosquitoes with insect repellents, avoiding the peak mosquito hours of dawn and dusk, and draining all standing water around your home.

"You can significantly reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by eliminating potential places for standing water where mosquitoes love to breed, such as bird baths, tires, flower pots, wading pools and other containers," Mills said.

"Don't forget to keep gutters clean and flowing and drill holes into the bottom of recycling or garbage containers to prevent water from stagnating. Make sure to repair or install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes from entering your home. Change out water in bird baths and pet watering bowls weekly and place screening on rain barrels."

Mills said West Virginia also has inherited a super-sized mosquito strain formerly found only in Florida, though not many have been spotted yet. The extra-large mosquitoes -- reported to be four to five times the size of a regular mosquito -- are known as gallinippers and are thought to make up less than 2 percent of the mosquito population. They also do not spread mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile.

Mills added that the health department will begin testing on ticks Wednesday, to continue into the coming weeks. Ticks are known to carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

"The state is trying to get a handle on some of this before it becomes an issue," he said.

For more information, call 304-523-6483.

Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.