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3 crows in New York City area confirmed infected with West Nile virus

June 10, 2000
Web posted at: 1:03 PM EDT (1703 GMT)

ALBANY, New York (CNN) -- Three crows found dead in the New York City area have been confirmed infected with the West Nile virus, health officials said.

Last year, the virus was blamed for the deaths of seven area residents. It is spread by mosquitoes, which can infect crows and people. In humans, it can cause encephalitis, a swelling of the brain.

Two of the crows were found dead May 22 along the Hudson River in Rockland County. They tested positive Friday for the virus, said New York Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello.

The crows, an adult male and adult female, were submitted from the same area in New City, in the Rockland County town of Clarkston, 33 miles north of New York City.

A third crow, found dead May 30 in Bergen County, New Jersey, also tested positive for the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Novello said area residents should not be alarmed by the findings, but urged them to take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, which can spread the virus.

"Our test results do not conclusively indicate that there are infected mosquitoes in the area, since we cannot know for certain where the birds acquired the infection, but we wanted to get the word out quickly that people should continue their efforts to protect themselves and their families," she said.

"That means eliminating standing water around your home where mosquitoes breed, reporting dead bird sightings to your local health department and taking personal mosquito protection measures, as appropriate."

Mosquito protection measures include installing or repairing screens, avoiding mosquito habitats, especially between the hours of dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are active and feeding, wearing clothing that protects against biting insects and possibly wearing an insect repellant containing DEET.

West Nile virus can cause mild to severe illness. In the most serious cases, infection can cause encephalitis, swelling of the brain. Elderly people and people with weak immune systems are most at risk.

Last year, the virus caused encephalitis in 62 people in the New York area; seven died, according to the state health department.

Cases of West Nile virus infection were confirmed last year in New York City, Westchester County and Nassau County.

Health officials said there have been no known cases of illness caused by the virus this year.

The two crows from Rockland County are the only birds that have tested positive of more than 125 examined since January.

A hawk that died in February was confirmed positive at a Connecticut lab.

Crows are particularly susceptible to the virus, and are considered an important early warning sign that the virus is in an area.

Mosquitoes are the source of the virus, infecting birds and people.

Starting this week, the state laboratory began testing mosquito pools from counties in or near the areas affected by the virus last year. The pools will be tested weekly during the transmission season.



RELATED STORIES:
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April 26, 2000
Stop West Nile virus by disrupting mosquitoes' breeding cycle, officials say
April 26, 2000
New York City gears up to fight West Nile virus
March 10, 2000
CDC confirms West Nile virus caused New York deaths
October 22, 1999

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