The Buzz About West Nile

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Almost half of West Virginia's 55 counties have reported West Nile cases this summer, and the state health department says a long-term plan is needed. But health officials add they need authority to deal with those who aren't taking steps to rid their homes of breeding grounds.

"The local government needs some tools to be able to tell homeowners: you have to clean that up, we have to protect public health," says Deedee Bixler, director of infectious diseases for the West Virginia Health Department. "You have to get rid of those tires, we have to protect breeding sites."

The city of Parkersburg is taking steps of their own. This weekend, a firm it has hired will be testing to determine which types of mosquitoes are carrying West Nile.

"The soil out there is just not good; it's really dangerous," says Mayor Jimmy Colombo. "We have a lot of young kids out in the county, that's how we have grown. We have to be careful."

This doesn't sound like good news, but state health officials say Wood County leads the state in the number of cases of West Nile. But they add there's more to that than what it sounds like.

"That probably is an indicator of more West Nile activity," Dr. Bixler says. "But it also means the local health department is more responsive when citizens call, they take the information. They have been effective in responding to this issue."

The city of Parkersburg is home to 11 of the 13 infected birds that have been found so far.

So far, no West Nile Virus deaths have been reported in West Virginia. In Ohio, five people have died from the disease.