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No human West Nile cases reported here

The West Nile virus continues to be a major topic of discussion, especially after the recent outbreak of the virus in Louisiana, where the virus was confirmed last week to have infected 58 persons and killed four, with two of the deaths occurring in Baton Rouge.

The West Nile deaths were the first reported in the US this year and raised the national toll to 22 deaths since 1999, when the virus was first detected in this country.

Terry Kyzar of the Covington County Health Department said Monday, however, that although cases of the virus have been detected in various birds in the state, no human cases have been reported in Covington County or in the state as of yet.

And while the Louisiana outbreak has perhaps caused concern among residents in neighboring states, Kyzar said the fact that no human cases have been reported in the state is a positive one, and said people should continue to use whatever precautions necessary to avoid mosquito bites.

"As I understand it, mosquito spraying has been stepped up in cities such as Andalusia, Opp and maybe Florala, but there is no spraying going on in the county," said Kyzar. "We can't spray the world. We can't kill off all of the healthy insects we have such as bees."

Jonathan Maddox, who works with the City of Andalusia street department, said the city sprays every night for mosquitoes from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

"We had been around the town

twice (spraying) but we had run out of the chemical," said Maddox. "We recently got in a new shipment (of the chemical)."

He said the city has not had an exorbitant increase in spraying due to the West Nile concerns, but said the city has gradually increased from spraying two to three times a week to nightly.

He said the city uses Mosquito 1, which is a DEET-based chemical. Pesticides containing DEET are believed to be the most effective against mosquitoes.

"If (the chemical the city uses) is not the best, it is up there, but it is also pretty expensive," said Maddox.

Since the first finding in 1999, the virus has been found in more than 30 states and it is spreading south and west, reaching Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma among other states this year.

"(The virus) is migrating with the birds," said Kyzar.

It has been reported that eight people in Texas and 22 in Mississippi are currently sick with West Nile encephalitis.

The virus is being compared to the St. Louis encephalitis which killed four people and hospitalized 62 in the Louisiana city of Monroe last year.

An epidemiologist leading a team currently assisting health officials in Louisiana said the West Nile virus and the St. Louis encephalitis, both mosquito-related viruses are genetically very closely related.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, whenever a mosquito bites an infected bird, it ingests some of the virus. West Nile and similar viruses have evolved with the mosquito and can get through the insect's stomach lining and into the body after a few days. Once in the body, it multiplies in the blood, saliva and elsewhere. Once in the saliva, it moves into whatever the mosquito bites.