By Shelley Grieshop
A blue jay found in the city of Celina a few weeks ago has tested positive for the West Nile virus (WNV).
Since testing began at the county level a few years ago, several birds have tested positive in both Mercer and Auglaize counties, officials said.
"This year, so far, we sent in 13 dead birds and this bird is the only one that tested positive," said Chris Miller, sanitarian for the Mercer County-Celina City Health Department.
None of the five birds sent last year for testing from Mercer County tested positive, Miller said.
WNV is a potentially serious illness that is now established in North America and flares up each summer through fall. It is mainly spread to animals and humans by mosquito bites. People typically develop symptoms between 3 and 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. About one in 150 people infected with WNV will get seriously ill with symptoms such as high fever, headache and stiff neck that can lead to a coma, convulsions, paralysis and other life-threatening health conditions. About 80 percent of people infected with WNV show no symptoms.
So far this year, avian, animal and mosquito infections have been reported in 46 states including Ohio, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Human cases have been diagnosed in 33 states, including one confirmed in Fulton County in Ohio. So far in 2006, 31 deaths have been blamed on the virus -- 10 of those occurring in Texas.
Local health departments each year send in birds to be tested until they receive two positive results. At that point, they begin monitoring mosquito pools to help gauge the severity of the problem.
Auglaize County Sanitarian Marv Selhorst told The Daily Standard this morning he's been frustrated with lagging test results from the state. After being informed by The Daily Standard that Mercer County received results recently, he called state officials and was e-mailed results from about a dozen dead birds sent in by him since early spring -- all were negative, he said, including one from his own driveway.
Selhorst said Auglaize County also had no birds test positive for WNV last year, although the year before they had two and one of those was also from his property, he said.
When testing first began in 2002, state health officials accepted only dead blue jays and crows but now song birds found deceased are welcome, Miller said. Larger birds are not tested for WNV; all species sent in must be in good shape.
Anyone finding a dead bird is asked to drop it off at their county health department or call officials to pick it up. In Mercer County, call 419-586-3251; in Auglaize County, 419-738-3410.