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West Nile virus case confirmed in Oregon.

Byline: Tim Christie The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran 9/11/04): Washington is the last state in the continental United States without a human case of West Nile virus. Stories published Thursday and Friday in The Register-Guard incorrectly said Oregon was the last state without a human case.

On the same day the first human case of West Nile virus was confirmed in Oregon, Lane County public health officials reported that the disease was found in a dead bird in Eugene.

Public health officials said Thursday evening that a dead crow found in the Sheldon area of Eugene on Sept. 3 tested positive for the virus.

Also on Thursday evening, state health officials reported that the state's first human case of West Nile virus was detected in Eastern Oregon.

Public health officials said they were not surprised the virus has showed up in a bird in Lane County because it already had been detected in animals in other parts of Oregon.

Oregon was the last state in the continental United States to get the disease, which was first detected in the country in 1999.

State health officials had few details about the human case, which occurred in Malheur County, the same Eastern Oregon county where the first animal cases were detected last month.

The state public health lab confirmed Thursday afternoon that a suspected human case was indeed positive for West Nile virus, said Bonnie Widerburg, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services. The infected person has since recovered; Widerburg didn't know the person's age or gender. Health officials may release more details today.

"It's really no surprise," she said. "We know West Nile is here (in animals) so it's logical the next step is human."

Malheur County borders Nevada and Idaho. Earlier Thursday, two southern Idaho men became the first residents of that state to be diagnosed with the disease. Those men were recovering without hospitalization, health officials said.

The virus was first detected in the United States in 1999 in Queens, N.Y., and has since steadily spread west across the continent in the blood of birds.

Birds are the reservoirs of the virus, carrying the disease as they migrate. mosquitoes transmit the disease from birds to humans and other animals. The virus isn't spread human-to-human, or to people directly from birds or animals.

Four out of five people who test positive for West Nile virus will never even know it; only about 20 percent will get sick, and most of those will exhibit mild flu-like symptoms, health officials say. Of the people who exhibit symptoms, about one in 30 will develop life-threatening encephalitis, or swelling of the brain. People 50 or older are at highest risk of severe illness.

To date this year in the United States, 1,191 human cases have been reported, and 30 people have died. In 2003, public health officials counted 9,842 cases, including 264 deaths.

Colorado was hardest hit last year: Nearly 3,000 cases were reported, and 63 people died.

But as far as a public health threat, West Nile virus pales compared with influenza, which kills about 36,000 Americans each year.

That's why public health officials say people should not be unduly anxious about West Nile virus.

"Take precautions, but don't get alarmed," said Betsy Meredith, communicable disease nursing supervisor with Lane County Public Health.

County public health officials have been watching for the virus all summer.

They have sent 24 dead birds from Lane County to the veterinary lab at Oregon State University for testing. They also have been capturing mosquitoes at various locations throughout the county and testing them for the virus.

Volunteers have been catching mosquitoes in the Veneta and Fern Ridge area, Noti and Poodle Creek, Cottage Grove and Dorena Lake, Delta Ponds, Amazon Park, Island Park, Thurston, and north Eugene wetlands.

They plan to test other areas in the future.


Public health officials say the best protection against West Nile virus is prevention.

Eliminate sources of standing water around your property that can support mosquito breeding, such as clogged gutters, birdbaths, wheelbarrows, watering cans and old tires.

Avoid playing or working outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, or wear repellent or clothing that covers your skin.

Insect repellents with DEET have been found to work best; follow label directions when using any repellent and do not apply DEET products to children younger than 2.

Make sure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens in good repair; don't leave doors open without a screen.


Lane County:

State Department of Health Services: or call toll-free West Nile information line, (866) 703-4636

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
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Title Annotation:Health; A Malheur County man has recovered from the disease, which also has been detected in a dead bird in Eugene
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 10, 2004
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