DHEC: West Nile virus detected in bird found in Downtown Columbia

DHEC: West Nile virus detected in bird found in Downtown Columbia

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has issued an advisory after the West Nile virus was detected in a bird in Richland County.

But officials say that detecting the virus is not uncommon in South Carolina.

"Identifying birds carrying West Nile virus in our state is not uncommon," said Chris Evans, Ph.D. and DHEC's staff entomologist. "Birds pass the virus on to mosquitos, which can then infect humans. Positive identifications serve as an important reminder to preventing mosquito bites. It's the most important step you can take to prevent the spread of illness from mosquitoes to people."

DHEC was notified on July 17 that the bird was taken from Downtown Columbia near Hampton Street and Sumter Street, a very congested area with businesses and residences.

"Mosquitoes that carry this virus are typically active at night, but can also be active at dusk and dawn and in shady areas during the day," Evans said. "DHEC partners with cities and counties across the state to help trap and identify mosquitoes carrying diseases that can be spread to people.

The City of Columbia says they are launching an aggressive mosquito abatement effort in certain parts of the city. Mayor Steve Benjamin says the discovery of the positive test has already prompted overnight mosquito spraying activity.

Here is a map of the area that's being sprayed:

Here's what you need to know about West Nile virus, per the Centers for Disease Control:

  • No symptoms in most people. Most people (70-80 percent) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms. West Nile virus can be spread by mosquitoes if infected individuals are bitten, even if they have no symptoms.  West Nile virus is not spread from person to person.
  • Febrile illness in some people. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as a headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.
  • Severe symptoms in a few people. Less than 1 percent of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). The symptoms of neurologic illness can include a headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis.

"The vast majority of people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms," said Linda Bell, M.D. and DHEC's state epidemiologist. "Serious illness such as encephalitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain, will only occur in less than one percent of people infected."

Officials emphasize the public plays a vital role in controlling the spread of all mosquito-borne diseases. Dead birds can help DHEC and local partners track West Nile virus. Residents can report the finding of dead birds to DHEC by going to their website HERE. The Department is currently accepting submission of birds through Nov. 30, 2017.

For more information about preventing mosquito bites and the spread of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses, go to www.scdhec.gov/mosquitoes. Learn more about West Nile virus at www.scdhec.gov/westnile.

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