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West Nile Virus Turns Up in Escambia

Cantonment mockingbird infected with mosquito-borne disease

Mosquitoes and disease    

Fogging for mosquitoes
Mosquito Repellents Mosquito Control

  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 here.
  "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 mosquito-borne disease.
  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 deal."
  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 lightning."
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

Pest Control    mosquitoes