W. Nile virus on the rise

OSU provides guidance as mosquito-borne illness hits Oregon

CORVALLIS — Although summer may be winding down, the threat of West Nile virus in Oregon appears to be increasing, putting humans and some animals at risk.

The Oregon Health Authority has confirmed two human cases of West Nile virus in Oregon this week. The affected adults are from Coos Bay and Malheur County. These are the first two confirmed human cases since 2009 in Oregon. The highest number of infected humans occurred in 2006, with 73 confirmed cases.

Most infections are mild, with fever and flu-like symptoms, but severe infections may cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and rarely, death.

According to public health officials, the veterinary diagnostic laboratory at Oregon State University, which provides testing for the state, is reporting the highest levels of West Nile virus activity in mosquitoes since 2009.

The lab has confirmed the virus in 58 different “pools” of mosquitoes — of which 55 were located in Malheur County. In contrast, only three pools of West Nile virus were confirmed last year in Oregon, and four in 2010. In some previous years however, over 1,000 pools of mosquitoes were found carrying the virus.

Emilio DeBess, Oregon Health Authority veterinarian, said West Nile virus typically peaks around Labor Day weekend. He recommends the following precautions for Oregonians:

n Eliminated sources of standing water that are a breeding ground for mosquitoes, including watering troughs, bird baths, clogged gutters and old tires;

n Protect yourself when outside, especially at dusk or dawn when mosquitoes are most active, by using repellants containing DEET, oil of lemon, eucalyptus or Picardin, following application directions;

n Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in mosquito-infested areas;

n Make sure screen doors and windows fit tightly and are in good repair.

The virology section of the state’s diagnostic lab has also confirmed West Nile virus in one horse in Klamath County, and in a crow from Malheur County. Certain birds are known carriers of West Nile virus.

“Infected crows, ravens, jays and other members of the corvid family are considered ‘reservoirs’ and will carry very high viral loads of West Nile,” said Donna Mulrooney, OSU lab supervisor. Mosquitoes biting infected birds will then be infected with the virus and carry it on.

“Horses, on the other hand, are known as ‘dead-end’ hosts,” added Mulrooney. “They don’t carry enough of a viral load to infect mosquitoes if bitten. However, the danger to horses is real. Anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of horses infected with the West Nile virus will die.”

More information on West Nile virus is available from the Oregon Health Authority.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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