West Nile confirmed in basin | TahoeDailyTribune.com

West Nile confirmed in basin

Jeff Munson

A dead Steller’s jay found on lower Kingsbury Grade on Friday was carrying the West Nile virus, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The bird, found on a Cypress Way lawn by a resident was taken to Washoe County for testing that afternoon. The test came back positive late Tuesday, Douglas County mosquito control officer Ron Lynch said.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control reported human illness from West Nile virus is rare, with less than 1 percent of humans contracting the virus, which can cause flu-like symptoms and death.

The confirmation means the virus is now present in the Lake Tahoe Basin, a reality that many health experts believed was inevitable as cases have been discovered in Minden, Gardnerville, Carson City and in Lyon and Churchill counties over the past two weeks.

“We can assume now that it has been found on Kingsbury Grade … the virus has now made it in the Tahoe basin,” said Ginger Huber, Tahoe Division Manager of El Dorado County’s Department of Environmental Management.

Huber returned from a Sacramento meeting Wednesday which addressed the virus. She said the state hotline has been getting between 2,000 and 3,000 calls a day.

On Wednesday, the South Lake Tahoe environmental health office turned over two dead birds to UC Davis, while Lynch said he found a dead Steller’s jay on Tuesday at Chimney Rock on the Nevada side, only blocks away from where the confirmed bird virus carrier was found. He took the bird Wednesday to Reno for testing.

“There is a chance they are related,” Lynch said. “Basically, we are talking about the same neighborhood.”

Results from tests done on two dead birds found in South Lake Tahoe last week came back without a diagnosis because the carcasses were too old to meet the testing criteria. Because UC Davis is becoming inundated with potential cases, the turnaround time for test results is now 10 days, Huber said.

In related news, preliminary test results indicate a third Nevadan has contracted the West Nile Virus, the state Health Division said Wednesday.

The victim lives in Churchill County. State Health Officer Bradford Lee said the victim is over 50 and appears to have contracted a severe form of the illness while in Nevada.

Additional test results for positive confirmation of the mosquito-borne illness are expected in one to two weeks. Earlier reports of people with the virus include one in the Reno area and one in the Las Vegas area.

Also, the first Douglas County case of West Nile virus found in a horse resulted in the animal’s death. The horse was euthanized after being discovered with the disease.

The symptoms in horses can vary widely, but often include massive disorientation and loss of muscle control.

While more humans die of the flu every year than from West Nile virus, horses have proven more susceptible to the ravages of the disease.

An estimated 30 percent of unvaccinated horses that show symptoms of the virus die, Lynch said. There is a vaccine for horses, but none for humans.

– Record-Courier reporter Regina Purcell contributed to this report

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