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Virus increases Health Department workload

According to Terry Kyzar,

the Environmental supervisor for the Covington County Health Department, the recent outbreak of West Nile virus cases has translated into busier workload for him and his staff.

"We are probably getting about 20 calls per day (with West Nile-related questions) with most of them calling about dead birds," said Kyzar. "We are taking in birds and in some cases we are going out to investigate calls we are getting. It can be an expensive process between shipping in birds and getting them tested so we are advising (callers) to basically submit just certain types of birds. We are telling people to be very careful and to not touch the birds if possible. The bird cannot be dead for over 24 hours."

Besides the calls about dead birds, Kyzar said calls continue to come in regarding rabies control, although he said those calls concerning rabies have been typical for awhile.

Kyzar said he has not detected any sense of panic or alarm with residents in Covington County about the West Nile virus, but he said there does appear to be concern.

"We are getting calls from people and they are taking (the virus) a bit more seriously," said Kyzar. "We have had a lot more calls about dead blue jays lately."

Kyzar said his department is continuing to monitor various activities concerning the virus and continuing to urge people to use proper precautions in their attempts to avoid mosquito bites, which include:

Stay indoors at dawn, dusk and in the early evening.

Get rid of any long standing water.

Wear light colored clothes, mosquitoes are attracted to dark clothes.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.

Spray clothing with repellents containing permethrin or DEET since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing.

Use DEET repellents with concentrations below 10 percent for children and below 30 percent for adults.

Cover up the arms and legs of children playing outdoors.

Cover baby carriages or outdoor playpens with mosquito netting.

Install or repair window and door screens so mosquitoes cannot get indoors.

Remove standing water from around your house.

Covington County Commission Chairman Greg White said he does not anticipate any increased alerts or measures from the county, unless absolutely necessary.

"We are constantly discussing (the virus) with the Covington County Health Department, and it is the agency responsible for determining what actions we might take," said White. "I talked with (Kyzar) last Friday, and if the status was to change, then we might consider some course of action."

White said he is one of the many county residents concerned about the virus.

"Anytime you have this type of problem, it is a concern," said White. "Every year we have one or two cases of West Nile in horses, and the virus has gotten fairly close recently. We are just encouraging our people to use precautions."

He said there is not a county-wide plan for mosquito spraying, adding that would encompass some 1,000 square miles and 1,200 miles of county roads.

"We leave it up to the cities to take care of their own spraying," said White.