Health District Officials: Dead crows had West Nile

Two dead crows found in Prince William County have been confirmed to have West Nile virus, according to the Prince William Health District.

They are the third and fourth infected crows in Northern Virginia this year, with the other two identified last week in Loudoun County, said Lucy Caldwell, Northern Virginia spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Health.

The dead crows were discovered in the neighborhood of Bobcat Court, off of Minnieville Road near the Montclair Elementary School; and Laurel Glen Court, off Davis Ford Road, near the Occoquan Reservoir and the Fairfax County line, said Earl Tester, environmental health supervisor for the health district.

West Nile Virus is caused by the bite of an infected mosquito. Birds, animals and people can develop the disease after being bitten by mosquitoes carrying the virus.

Most people who get bitten by an infected mosquito do not become sick. Those who do become ill usually suffer a mild flu-like illness. People over the age of 50 are at the greatest risk of serious illness.

Statewide, 29 people were infected with West Nile in 2002. There have been no cases reported this year and there has never been a case of West Nile in humans occurring in the Prince William area.

West Nile, which has been spreading across the country for several years, was detected in Virginia in 2000. The first crow infected by the virus in Prince William occurred in 2001, during which time a total of 11 infected birds were identified. The number increased to 34 infected birds last year.

“The numbers are going up,” Tester said.

It also is likely that they could go even higher this year since the mosquito population is expected to be greater.

“I think it’s fairly safe to say that we can expect more mosquitoes this year because of the extremely wet spring we’ve had,” Tester said. Mosquitoes breed in bodies of stagnant water.

“This is one of the reasons why we want to emphasize to people to empty containers where mosquitoes can breed,” Tester said. “The greater the mosquito population, the greater the chance of passing West Nile along.”

The discovery of the infected crows in the county was not unexpected, said Dr. Jared Florance, medical director for the Prince William Health District.

“We anticipate finding additional infected birds as this disease becomes established in Virginia,” Florance said. “Fortunately, there are many steps the public can take to reduce the number of mosquitoes in our area.”

The state health department recommends that residents take the following measures to prevent their yards from becoming mosquito breeding grounds:

— clean roof gutters and downspout screens;

— eliminate standing water on tarps or flat roofs;

— clean out birdbaths and wading pools once a week;

— turn over containers that collect water such as old tires, potted plant trays buckets and toys after storms.

Residents also should take steps to protect themselves.

“For their own protection, we want to emphasize to people to dress in long sleeves and long pants and to wear mosquito repellent with DEET,” Tester said. “They also should be aware that mosquitoes are out in the mornings and evenings and be sensitive to that.”

As it has in the past, the health district also plans to canvas the neighborhoods where the infected crows were discovered to ensure that the residents are aware of the presence of the virus and take the necessary precautions, Tester said.

More information about the virus can be found at the Virginia Department of Health’s Web site,