West Nile Virus Turns Up in Escambia
Cantonment mockingbird infected with mosquito-borne disease
A mockingbird found in Cantonment died after being
infected with the West Nile virus, marking the arrival of a new form of encephalitis to
the Pensacola area.
The virus, introduced to North America in New York
City in 1999, is less harmful to humans than Eastern equine or St. Louis varieties already
"It's not really going to change
anything," said Dr. John Lanza, Escambia County Health Department director.
"We've been expecting it for some time."
Lanza announced Tuesday that Escambia joins 24
other Florida counties -- including Santa Rosa -- that have confirmed the strain of the
About 75 dead birds from Escambia and 80 from
Santa Rosa have been tested.
"It was only a matter of time," said Bill Sirmans, director of
environmental health in Santa Rosa, who received positive test result Tuesday from a dead
blue jay sent for testing last month. "It's really not that big of a
Most of the Panhandle has been under a medical
alert for the West Nile Virus for three weeks. In Florida, there have been four
confirmed human cases since it was discovered in early July.
A Madison County man is hospitalized in
Tallahassee with the virus that spreads through infected birds.
Mosquito control officials in the two counties are
conducting business as usual.
"We're pretty much maxed out now," said
Bruce Furlow, director of Escambia County Mosquito and Rodent Management.
A fleet of five sprayers operates four nights a week and every other Friday.
He hopes to hire an extra operator to drive a sixth sprayer.
Tony Gomillion, director of Santa Rosa Environmental Control, said he is reducing
spraying operations from seven nights a week to five.
"Even though West Nile is a new disease in the United States, in reality it is a very
rare event for the disease to be transmitted to a person," Furlow said.
"The public needs to know that you're much more likely to be struck by
The virus is potentially lethal, particularly in those with weak immune systems.
Symptoms of West Nile include severe headache, fever and delirium, Lanza said.
Whom to call; reduce your risk
To report a dead bird or ask questions about the West Nile virus, call the Escambia
County Environmental Health Department, 595-6700, or the Santa Rosa County Environmental
Health Department, 983-5275.
You can avoid mosquitoes by not going outdoors before dusk and dawn; eliminating standing,
where mosquitoes breed; and wearing bug repellent containing DEET.
by Brett Norman
Pensacola News Journal