West Nile in Guilderland

A bird found last week in Guilderland tested positive for West Nile virus, the first bird to test positive for the mosquito-borne infection in Albany County this year.

Albany County spokeswoman Carrie Battle said there were 196 birds submitted for testing this year, 51 of which were crows. According to Battle, the bird that tested positive was a fledgling crow. At this time last year, Battle said 315 birds had been submitted for testing including 142 crows.

A total of eight tested positive by this time last year, said Battle. "It's not unusual for us to find positive birds this time of year."

The state Department of Health reported that in 2005, there were 299 dead birds found throughout the state to be infected with the West Nile virus, 28 of which were found in Albany County ranking only behind Suffolk County (101) and Onondaga County (31) for the most cases by county. Across the state in 2005, 38 humans became infected resulting in two deaths.

According to the state reports' Albany County had only four dead West Nile-infected birds found in 2004, far removed than the 165 birds positive birds found in 2003.

According to Albany County's Department of Health Web site, in the fall of 1999, West Nile virus, an infection that can cause encephalitis, was first found in New York state. The virus is transmitted by certain mosquitoes that tend to breed in urban areas. These mosquitoes feed on infected birds and become carriers of the virus in their salivary glands. When an infected mosquito bites a human, bird, or other animal, the virus is then transmitted where it may multiply and cause illness. In 2002, West Nile spread throughout the United States and it is likely to recur on a seasonal basis.

The chance that any one person is going to become ill from a bite is low. Most people who become infected with West Nile virus will have either no symptoms or only mild ones, including: fever, headache and body aches. Symptoms generally appear 5 to 15 days after exposure. There is no specific treatment for viral infections, other than to treat the symptoms and provide supportive care. Those who may be susceptible to encephalitis are infants, the elderly and persons with impaired immune systems. Fortunately, in areas where West Nile virus has been identified, the risk of contracting the virus from a mosquito bite is extremely low.

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