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The Daily



06-11-03: Health officials say West Nile outbreak in Mercer, Auglaize counties likely
The Daily Standard

    WAPAKONETA - Local residents are advised to put on mosquito repellents this summer as outbreaks of West Nile Virus may hit Auglaize and Mercer counties.
    "With the rainy season, I think we can expect a potential outbreak of it (West Nile)," Auglaize County Board of Health Medical Director Wilfred Ellis told board members meeting Tuesday.
    People bitten by an infected mosquito may develop flu-like symptoms, and in the elderly, very young and those with weakened immune systems, they can suffer encephalitis, a potentially fatal brain infection.
    Auglaize County had five reported cases of West Nile Virus last year, and Mercer County had four reported cases. There have been no reported human cases yet this year.
    There is no specific treatment for West Nile infection; it basically just has to run its course. Supportive type medicines can be given to those infected to relieve the flu-like symptoms.
    A report issued in March by The American Medical News said that "progress is moving rapidly toward vaccination, but it most likely won't be ready for this summer."
    Ellis said the best way for the area to control an outbreak is by eliminating standing water around homes. Mosquitoes, which carry the disease, breed in standing water. People also should use insect repellents when outside, especially in areas with a high mosquito population.
    "Anything that can collect water should be covered or set up so it doesn't hold water and help breed mosquitoes," Ellis said. "Bird baths should be changed weekly to interrupt incubation periods for the larvae."
    Mercer County and some Auglaize County municipalities are planning to spray to help control mosquito population, but Ellis downplayed the effect that spraying can have on helping control the virus. Ellis said spraying breaks down food chains.
    "The best control is to eliminate breeding in habitats that are not natural," he said. "Spraying has no real impact on controlling the virus."
    While West Nile Virus may be coming, Ellis said residents have no reason to fear Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
    "This disease has been most common among travelers," Ellis said. "Unless you are going to the Orient or to Toronto, there isn't anything to worry about."
    Ellis added the reason the disease most likely hit Toronto was because the city is a frequent stop for Far East travelers.
    County sanitarian Marv Selhorst told the board that 39 of the county's 67 retail food establishments will be inspected by the county in coalition with the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA).
    Retail food establishments, such as grocery stores, deal primarily with selling unprepared food. Selhorst said of the 39, five of the inspections will be overseen by the ODA. The inspections are taking place this week and next week.
    Selhorst also said the Ohio Department of Health completed a review of private water systems in the area, and that the county received "an overall good report."


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