First Case of West Nile Virus in Harris County Confirmed

The Harris County Health Department has confirmed the county's first case of West Nile Virus, in a bird that was found dead on Houston's west side. That means spraying for the mosquitoes that carry the disease begins tonight, as Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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The County Health Department's Mosquito Control Director Dr. Rudy Bueno says finding one dead bird with the West Nile Virus may not sound like a big deal but it is.

"Birds are normally the first indicator of the presence of the virus. And it kinda follows a succession. First you've got the birds, then you've got mosquitoes and then you've got people."

Dr. Bueno says he now knows the virus is still here, and if last year's experience is an indicator of what's to come, he's not looking forward to this summer.

"Last year we had a total of 103 birds that were positive. We had 842 mosquito samples that were positive, which was the highest activity we've had in the county. We had 65 human cases."

And four people died of encephalitis brought on by the West Nile Virus. Bueno says most healthy people infected by this virus show only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. It's rare for someone to die of it. He says people over the age of 50 and the chronically ill are at highest risk.

The dead blue jay with the virus was found at Briarpark and Del Monte on the west side. Zip Code 77042. The bird got the virus from mosquitoes, so the Mosquito Control Division will begin night-time mosquito spraying in that part of town tonight. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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