Break out the insect repellent, the West Nile virus has been found in Racine County.

Health officials found a dead crow in Racine County that has tested positive for West Nile virus, according to a press release by the Central Racine County Health Department.

This is the first bird that has tested positive for the virus in Racine County since the Central Racine County Health Department started testing in May.

“The positive bird means that residents of Racine County need to be more vigilant in their personal protective measures to prevent mosquito bites,” said Margaret Gesner, health officer with the Central Racine County Health Department.

Mosquitoes that feed on infected birds, including crows, can transmit West Nile virus to humans.

Most people — 80 percent — who do contract West Nile do not get sick, but those who do experience fever, headache, muscle ache, rash and fatigue. Still, less than 1 percent of those who are infected get seriously ill. They will have a high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, mental confusion, tremors, confusion, paralysis, and coma. People with compromised immune systems and older adults have a higher risk of developing central nervous illness, which can be fatal, according to the press release.

“Racine County residents should be aware of West Nile virus and take some simple steps to protect themselves against mosquito bites,” Gesner said. “The West Nile virus seems to be here to stay, so the best way to avoid the disease is to reduce exposure to and eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”

To avoid contracting the disease, the health department recommends:

  • Spending less time outside at dawn and dusk when mosquitos are most active.
  • If you are going to be outside, use insect repellent on skin and clothing.
  • Make sure windows and door screens are in good repair.
  • Dispose items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots and discarded tires.
  • Clean roof gunners and downspouts for proper drainage.
  • Turnover wheelbarrows,wading pools, boats and canoes when not in use.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
  • Drain water from pool covers.
  • Trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.
  • Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.

The state has monitored West Nile virus since 2001. In 2002, 52 cases of people having West Nile virus infections were documented. In 2014, the state had six cases.

To report a sick or dead crow, blue jay, or raven, please call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610.

For more information on West Nile virus, click on the link for the state Department of Health and Family Services website.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.