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West Nile virus found at Fort Drum


FORT DRUM — Post medical officials say they are treating an area on post where they found a mosquito carrying the West Nile virus, the first time an insect carrying the virus has been found in Jefferson County.

In the past decade, the virus had been found only in dead birds in the county.

Capt. Rebecca S. Newton, spokeswoman for the post’s Medical Department Activity, said in an email that the mosquito was found last week at a pond along a running trail near Conway Road and Enduring Freedom Drive.

Receiving the positive test, the post environmental health office sampled the pond water twice after the report. The follow-up tests found no more mosquitoes carrying the virus.

Capt. Newton said that depending on weather, the pond will be retreated within the next 30 days, with weekly surveys to ensure the virus has been cleared.

Jeffrey M. Leiendecker, who oversees the response to the virus for the Jefferson County Public Health Department, said he received a notification that the post found the culex mosquito, which is a common carrier of the illness.

He said the finding was not cause for alarm, but instead confirmation of something he and other experts already had projected.

“We can pretty safely say that West Nile virus is in Jefferson County, and has been for some time,” Mr. Leiendecker said.

Though the virus had never been found in an insect in the county, Mr. Leiendecker said, the agency has found birds infected with the virus for years. Though the mobility of the birds made it difficult to determine the exact spot where they came from, he said, the places they were found made it unlikely that they came from anywhere but Jefferson County.

From 2001 to about 2007, the county did active trapping of mosquitoes to see if they were carrying the virus, along with the placement of larvicides. However, the program was dropped due to the extensive time and financial demands such testing required.

Mr. Leiendecker said he hoped the discovery would help increase awareness of the virus and the ways people can protect themselves and their families from it.

Most people infected with West Nile have no symptoms, or experience mild illnesses such as a slight fever, headaches or body aches. However, in some people, particularly those with immune deficiencies, it can result in serious illness or even death.

Among the advice given by the state Department of Health to avoid the virus:

n Cover your skin as completely as possible when outside when mosquitoes are present and active. Wear long sleeves, pants and socks.

n Use insect repellent on exposed skin and follow label directions.

n Make sure there are screens in your home’s windows and doors. Make sure the screens are free of rips, tears and holes.

n Eliminate all standing water around your home and property where mosquitoes can breed.

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