Board looks at virus plans

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After recent detections of the West Nile Virus in the United States, the Tuolumne County Health Department has prepared a plan in case of an outbreak in the area.

The plan will be presented to the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors at tomorrow's board meeting.

Staff members from the Agricultural Commissioner's Office, Animal Control, Office of Emergency Services and the Health Department worked together on the plan, Health Officer Dr. Todd Stolp said in his report.

The West Nile Virus, first found in parts of Asia, eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East, is passed to humans and animals through mosquito bites. It was first detected in the United States in 1999 and has since been found in 44 states.

People with the West Nile Virus experience mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. In serious cases, the virus can develop into encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Horses can be feverish if they contract West Nile Virus from a mosquito bite.

The virus can be fatal in both humans and animals. Of the more that 14,000 horse cases in the U.S. in 2002, about 30 percent were fatal. Only 1 percent of the human cases lead to death.

As of February, the Center for Disease Control said there were 4,007 reported human cases and 263 deaths in the nation during 2002.

Stolp's report said Tuolumne County likely has a smaller population of mosquitoes than areas of the country where West Nile Virus outbreaks are occurring.

But, it doesn't hurt to plan ahead, he said.

The county's response plan is a modified version of the California State Mosquito-Borne Virus Surveillance and Response Plan, put together in June 2002.

There are three levels to in the plan, each with in-structions on how to deal with certain conditions.

For example, the county would be at level one or "normal season" if there was average or below rainfall, average seasonal temperatures and no human or horse cases of the virus in the area.

The Union Democrat
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