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Jackson County crow found to be infected with West Nile virus

A dead crow that tested positive for West Nile virus last week is the first bird in Oregon found with the virus this year.

The crow, found south of Gold Hill Tuesday, Sept. 2, was tested at the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Corvallis. Jim Lunders, manager and biologist for the Jackson County Vector Control District, said it is the first bird to test positive for the disease in Oregon this year.

People who spot sick or dead birds such as crows, ravens, jays and robins should contact the Vector Control District so the animals can be picked up for testing.

Birds aren't the only creatures carrying the virus. During the previous week, officials detected seven more pools of mosquitoes northeast of Central Point, east of Eagle Point and west of Medford that tested positive for the disease, bringing the season total up to 20 positive findings for the virus. That number is way up compared to past years, but Lunders said the agency's increased time in the field looking for the samples has a lot to do with that.

"We have had a lot more positive samples, but we've also increased our trapping quite a bit over past years," Lunders said.  "We are finding plenty of virus, but we have increased our surveillance so we can do a better job of informing the public when the virus is around.

"I think we're on a similar level of virus, we just are doing a better job of looking for it."

The Vector Control District routinely sets 32 adult mosquito traps and baits them with dry ice. This season, they have added 17 trap sites since the virus was first detected a month ago. Captured mosquitoes are identified by species, counted and pooled into groups of 10 to 50 specimens before they are sent to the Corvallis laboratory.

The virus has also been confirmed in Baker, Klamath, Morrow, Umatilla and Union counties. Two horses tested positive for the disease in Baker and Union counties, and four possible human cases have surfaced in Baker and Malhuer counties. The last known human case of West Nile in Jackson County was in 2005.

The virus has been detected in Jackson County in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2013.

According to the Centers for Disease Control website, about 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile have no symptoms. Those who do show symptoms could see a headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea or a rash.

Although the transition into autumn and cooler temperatures has begun and mosquito levels should drop, Vector Control officials urge people to continue taking precautions that can reduce the risk of mosquito bites. All standing water sources such as flooded fields, watering troughs, birdbaths, wading pools, clogged gutters and old tires should be eliminated. Any standing water left untouched for seven days can produce mosquitoes. Outdoor activities should be avoided at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. People should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants while hiking or recreating outdoors, and they should use mosquito repellents containing DEET, picardin or lemon or eucalyptus oils.

"We just want to remind people: Don't let your guard down just because it's getting cooler," Lunders said. "It's still important to protect yourself."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.