SARS, Monkeypox, biological and chemical weapons. They dominated 2003’s headlines as the nouveau micro assassins.
But not anymore.
It’s the third Battle of Bull Run, and the crows are losing. Move over new diseases, West Nile is back.
Six crows found in Manassas and Prince William County recently tested positive for the disease, which spreads through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
One bird was discovered on Pershing Drive in the Hoadly area July 8. Two birds were found July 10, on Stonewall Drive in Manassas and Aldie Road in the northwestern area of the county. One crow was found on Prince William Street in Manassas on July 11. Another bird was discovered on Turner Road in the Broad Run area July 12. The most recent discovery was on Evergreen Drive in Dale City on Sunday.
New cases have been appearing in different areas regionally.
Two dead crows found in early July on Bobcat Court, off Minnieville Road, and Laurel Glen Court, off Davis Ford Road, tested positive. Dead birds in Loudoun County were West Nile victims as well, state health officials said recently.
Humans are susceptible as well, although most who are bitten do not contract the illness. People over 50 and those who have immune disorders are in more danger than others, according to experts. Severe cases, while rare, can result in encephalitis, a swelling of the brain, according to doctors.
West Nile was first detected in Prince William County in 2001. Eleven birds tested positive that year. County officials were expecting to find additional crows after the discovery of the first two, Dr. Jared Florance, medical director for the Prince William Health District told the Potomac News and Manassas Journal Messenger recently. Florance was unavailable for comment Friday.
In addition to testing crows, officials are testing blue jays and raptors and are interested in testing any species suspected of infection.
The virus may spread more this year because of the abundance of rain, health officials contend. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant, standing water. One of the best ways to curtail the virus’ spread is to eliminate standing basins or change them frequently, according to officials.
The Prince William Health District recommends:
— Frequently changing bird baths and plants with standing water.
— Draining unused above-ground pools.
— Tightening boat and firewood tarps to prevent small pools from forming.
— Clearing gutters so water drains completely.
— Emptying outdoor containers that collect water, such as plant trays, buckets and toys.
For areas that are not easily drained, larvicides sold in granular or tablet form can be purchased at garden centers and home improvement stores. Larvicides should not be used in water that people come in contact with.
Residents in the county and two cities are asked to call local animal control offices if they find dead crows, blue jays or raptors. Crows are all black with dark, pointed beaks. Blue jays have blue backs and white bellies; they sometimes have a dark ring around their necks and a crest on top of their heads. Raptors are birds of prey, such as owls, eagles or hawks.
Anyone with mosquitoes in their neighborhoods, or those finding species other than the three listed, should call the Prince William Division of Environmental Health, at (703) 792-6310.