Suffolk: First bird this year tests positive for West Nile

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An American robin in Selden has tested positive for the West Nile virus, making it Suffolk County's first West Nile case this year, county health officials said Wednesday.

The dead robin was collected June 16, said Dr. James Tomarken, commissioner of health services.

The virus is carried by mosquitoes and it can be spread by mosquitoes that feed on infected birds, authorities said.

The virus can infect people and horses also through mosquito bites, health officials said.

It's often mosquitoes that test positive for the virus, but dead birds may indicate the presence of West Nile virus in the area, authorities said.

Health officials encourage residents to report dead bird sightings to the county Department of Health Services' public health hotline at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. That information could help contain the spread of the virus, they said.

County workers will collect crows, blue jays, hawks and American robins between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays, but during weekends or if the bird is not needed for testing, residents should be careful in disposing the bird.

While the virus cannot be transmitted by touching a bird, people should take precautionary measures by using gloves and a shovel to put the dead bird into a doubled bag and throw it in the trash, health officials said.

Symptoms of the mosquito-borne virus generally show up within two weeks of a bite by an infected mosquito. Most people who become infected with West Nile virus develop no symptoms, Tomarken said, but others may experience high fever, headaches, neck stiffness and numbness.

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Some victims recover within days. Still others can suffer more severe symptoms, including paralysis and disorientation, and less than 1 percent of victims develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurological illness, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To avoid mosquito bites, people are advised to wear shoes and socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors for long periods of time or when mosquitoes are more active. They may also use mosquito repellent when outdoors, following label directions carefully. Other precautions include getting rid of standing water around the home and making sure doors and windows have screens in good condition.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works' vector control division at 631-852-4270.

For medical questions on West Nile virus, call your health care provider or call 631-854-0333 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays. For further information on mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases, go to and look under "Seasonal Trends."

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