West Nile virus cause for concern, not fear

West Nile virus officially arrived in Oregon last week.

A dead crow found in Vale tested positive for the virus, public health officials in Malheur County confirmed.

The virus surfaced in the United States in 1999. Public health officials said it would reach Oregon eventually. It was just a matter of time.

West Nile virus spreads more fear than illness. The virus, as with most troubling develpments, is cause for concern -- but not for fear.

West Nile virus is an infection that lives in birds and is spread to humans and horses by mosquitoes that have fed on an infected bird.

The virus is not spread from person to person or directly to people from birds or animals.

The chance of contracting the virus is minimal. Many people who are exposed don't become sick. Most cases are mild with flulike symptoms such as fever, headache, weakness, swollen glands and rash.

In rare cases, the virus can cause inflammation of the brain and result in serious illness or death.

Symptoms can include headache, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

Physicians say anyone with severe or unusual headaches should seek medical attention as soon as possible. The risk of West Nile encephalitis is higher for people 50 and older.

There is a vaccine for horses but none for humans. However, there are things people can do to reduce their exposure to the virus.

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water, prefer shade and can hide in tall grass.

Eliminating standing water that can support mosquito breeding is the best prevention against the infection, Montague said.

Routinely empty water from flowerpots, pet bowls, swimming pools, discarded tires, clogged rain gutters, barrels, cans and other items that collect water in which mosquitoes can lay eggs.

Avoid mosquito bites by applying insect repellent, staying indoors between dusk and dawn and wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outdoors.

Above all, don't be scared.

You have a better chance of winning the lottery than dying from West Nile virus.

As always, our greatest enemy is our own fear.


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