Health Officials Issue West Nile Virus Warning

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CLEVELAND -- A warning was issued from a local health department about the dangers of the West Nile Virus Tuesday. This year is turning out to be a bad one for the disease here in Northeast Ohio and across the country.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, there have been nine cases in the state, including three in Cuyahoga County and one in Lorain County.

So far, there have been no cases reported in Lake County, but health officials are issuing a warning to residents in an effort to keep it that way.

Lake County health officials say the West Nile Virus has appeared early this year here.

"It's not bad in Lake County, we're just proactive, it's bad in all of Ohio, it's bad in 26 states in the United States, so people should be aware of it, not only because they live here in Lake County, but when they go to travel over the holiday weekend, they need to pay attention," said Nancy Niehus with the Lake County Health Department.

Although there have been no cases of West Nile Virus reported in Lake County this year, health officials say people still need to be aware that the mosquito-borne disease, which causes flu-like symptoms or worse, can be a threat.

"It's a very dry year and that might make people think that maybe there aren't a lot of mosquitoes, and that in fact is true, our mosquito trap counts are very, very low," Niehus said.

She says a large number of the mosquitoes that are being trapped are testing positive for West Nile.

"There's organic material in some of the water, maybe sewage, a bunch of leaves clogging gutters or in a puddle in the middle of the woods...the type of mosquitoes that make West Nile Virus like to breed in that organic kind of material," said Niehus.

"I know that standing water in pools and stuff like that, you know, keep them away from that and I pay attention, that's the main idea, I just pay attention to what's going on, make sure there's no standing water around, tires, you know," said Painesville resident Paul Valerio.

"I never worried about mosquitoes too much, I just...I hardly ever get bitten, so I never worried about them…cause the mosquitoes haven't been bad this year," said Painesville resident Lois Ferguson.

Health officials urge people, especially the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, to stay indoors in the evenings...wear insect repellant and eliminate mosquito breeding places.

"Dumping out bird baths from time to time and cleaning it out, a dog's water bowl, the kids' play pool, a watering can, anything that will hold water for more than a few days, need to be dumped," said Niehus.

Lake County health officials say they will continue to find and eliminate mosquito-breeding sites.  They also ask residents to report any dead bird, because mosquitoes get West Nile by feeding on the blood of birds.

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