By Kelly Davis Independent·Matl

WUl Chandler Independent· Mail Chris Klein, a supervisor with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Services, displays a net he uses to collect mosquitoes once a week. The trapped insects are shipped to Columbia, where they are tested for the West Nile virus.

Like a mosquito's pro­ boscis piercing the skin, West Nile virus has finally, official­ ly entered South Carolina. The first positive finding of the potentially fatal virus was announced Tuesday, con­ firmed in a blue jay found dead in Lexington County last week. The bird was found dead Aug. 6 by a resident and its brain tissue was tested for viral DNA by the state Department of Health and Control's Environmental molecular laboratory, said Chris Evan�, a medical ento­ mologist with the depart­ ment. The finding was long over· due, given that every other state on the East Coast and an increasing number inland have already detected West Nile virus. State health officials con­ tinue to advise calm among residents, citing statistics that show only a tiny handful of people are at risk for the worst outcome of exposure to the disease, and few people bitten, even by infected mos­ quitoes. actually become ill. "We knew that the West Nile virus would reach South Carolina eventually," Gov. Jim Hodges said in a news release. ''As of now, there are no indications of a direct health threat to South best Carolinians. Our response to this report is common sense." The West Nile virus is com­ mon in Africa and can cause encephalitis with severe headaches, fever. nausea and vomiting, disorientation, chills, and muscle aches , pain or stiffness. At least 26 species of mosquitoes in the United States are known to carry the virus, some of which bite birds and horses as well as humans. Only mos­ quitoes can transmit the virus to humans.
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Nationwide. l�.:; human cases of We�t Nile have been confirmed so far this year. incll:ling seven deaths in in Loui�iana and one Mississippi. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the South Carolina health department, the blue jay finding followed negative findings in 27 people, 103 other birds. 428 pools of mosquitoes (pools are group­ ings of the same species col­ lected from the same trap at the same time), 10 horses and one dog in South Carolina between Jan. 1 and July 31 this year. Results of lab tests on three suspicious birds are pending, as are results on several pools of mosquitoes, Mr. Evans said. "One of my goals right now. since we found this virus in a blue jay, is to find out which (mosquito species) is the vec­ tor so we can figure out where the source is, so we can deal with the source or tell people what to do to avoid it," Mr. Evans said. Some of Mr. Evans' mosqui­ to pools came from Oconee County, where environmental health officer Chris Klein has been setting out dry-ice mos­ quito traps once a week for nearly two months as part of a statewide surveillance effort. None of his traps, which catch about 50 or 60 mosquitoes in a night, have caught bugs carrying West Nile virus, he said. A West Nile-positive cardi­ nal was found last August in Stephens County.



By Jeffrey Collins
The ASSOCIated Press

(> To request mosquito spraying by Anderson County. call 260-1001 (> To request that the county NOT spray in an area. call 260-4023. To Umit mosqUito breedil1g grounds: <> o <> <>
Empty containers that hold water for any period of time. Keep ditches free of trash so water will continue to flow. Keep septic tanks in good repair. Clean out leaves and other trash fmm gutters regularly.

To reduce the risk of becoming infected with West Nile virus: <> Stay indoors at dawn and dusk. ¢ Make sure screens on windows and doors are in good repair. $ If you must be outdoors during these times. wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants to prevent mosquito bites. <> Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. The repellent should con­ tain 20 percent to 30 percent DEET. Repe!lents may hurt the eyes and mouth, so don't put on the hands of children. Don't use on children younger than 3. <> Spray clothing with repellents containing Permethrin or DEET.
No change in public health strategy has been triggered by the positive finding, Mr. Klein said. Authorities continue to advise avoiding the outdoors at dusk and dawn. wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts if going out is a must, and using effective insect repellents, he said. Residents should also empty standing water anywhere around their home at least every two days. Area residents appear to be controlling their fears, judg­ ing by purchases of insect repellent. A check with a smattering of local stores uncovered little upsurge in sales despite past news of the virus' continuing spread. "There haven't been any special requests for them," said Issaquena Outdool' Center employee Zack Martin. At the Ingles on North Main Street . a spot check by store manager Tim Foster found the stock of insect repellent apparently untouched by shoppers. People coming into Grady's Great Outdoors seeking mos· quito relief aren't worried about West Nile, they just don't want to be aggravated. said department manager Don Artman. One exception was McCallum's Prescription Shop, where pharmacffit Stan McCallum said he has had more inquiries about repel­ lenls because of the virus scare. "They want to get a product that has DEET in it," he said. DEET. or diethyl-meta-tolu­ amide, is the repellent ingre­ dient recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

COLUMBIA - Just because West Nile virus has been found in a blue jay near lrmo doesn't mean the disease will soon be found in humans in South Carolina, according to the state health agency. But there is no guarantee there aren't people infected with the virus right now, Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Thorn Berry said. ''In North Carolina. they have found the virus in 15 birds and sL'( horses. but it hasn't shown up in humans yet," Mr. Berry said. "There is just no association when you fmd the virus in birds or ani­ mals and when you mighl find it in humans." South Carolina trapped thousands of mosquitoes and tested hundreds of dead birds before the sick blue jay turned up on an Irmo lawn last week. DHEC said it is the first confirmed case of the mosqui­ to-borne virus found in the state. Thirty-eight other states. all east of the Rockies, also have reported West Nile virus cases in animals. No human cases have been reported in South Carolina, Georgia or North Carolina. A total of 135 people have been infected this year w ith the virus in Mississippi, Texas, Illinois, Alabama, Louisiana and Washington, D.C. At least

''There has to be

mosquitoes infected for the

birds to have gottel1l it. But there has to be you

much higher leve; of the virus arouncll before horses or even people get it."
Jerry Gibson DHEC, director ofdlSeasr con,,'o!
seven people have died from the virus. all of those in Louisiana. Usually, birds are the first animals infected. said Jerry Gibson. DHEC's director of disease control. "There has to be mosqui­ toes infected for the birds to have gotten it," Mr. Gibson said. "But there has to be a much higher level of the virus around before you see horses or even people get it." But just because the virus was found last week in South Carolina. doesn't mean there aren't scores of infected birds or mosquitoes flying around the state right now. Humans could be affected too without knowing, DREC warns. Studies done in New York after West Nile virus epidem­ ic in 1999 showed three out of every four people infected with the virus never showed any symptoms, DHEC said. Most of the rest get a mild illness thal can include a fever, body aches and a rash. Only 1 percent of those infect­ ed get the dangerous infection called encephalitis, which causes headaches. a high fever. paralysis. and in some cases death. health officials said. The virus cannot be passed from person to person. And no one has caught the virus from handling infected live or dead birds. However, avoid picking up any dead animals with your bare hands. DHEC says. DHEC scientists trapped mosquitoes around Lexington County on Monday to test them further. Mr. Berry said. They also will continue to trap mosquitoes in Aiken , Beaufort, Berkeley. Charleston. Florence, Georgetown, Oconee and Richland counties for testing. DHEC said it samples as many as 50.000 mosquitos a year. Cities and counties across the stale also say they are stepping up mosquito eradica­ tion programs.