Sentinel Chickens test positive for West Nile virus in Council Bluffs


August 12th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Flooding along the Missouri River in western Iowa has created another problem. Officials with the Council Bluffs Health Department today (Friday) say tests on their sentinel chicken flocks have come up positive for the West Nile Virus. The virus is spread by mosquitoes, which typically breed in stagnant or slowly moving water.

In a report issued Thursday, the Iowa Department of Public Health said the virus was detected in four sentinel chickens located in Pottawattamie County. The State Hygienic Lab tests the blood drawn from chickens on a weekly basis, to determine whether they have been infected with the West Nile virus or other arboviruses.

Human cases of West Nile have been reported in Iowa every year, since 2002. Mosquitoes can get West Nile virus when feeding on infected birds. Mosquitoes can then spread the virus to people through a bite. West Nile virus cannot be spread by person-to-person contact such as kissing, touching, or caring for an infected person. West Nile virus can also rarely be transmitted to humans who receive infected organs by transplantation or who receive transfusions of infected blood or blood products.

The chance of a human getting infected with the virus if bitten by a mosquito is low. Even in areas where the virus is circulating, very few mosquitoes are infected with the virus and not all mosquitoes can successfully transmit the virus. Most people who become infected with West Nile virus following a mosquito bite do not develop any symptoms.

Most people who are infected with West Nile virus either have no symptoms or experience mild illness such as fever, headache, and body aches before fully recovering. Some persons may develop a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. In <1% of infections, particularly in those persons over age 50, West Nile virus can cause serious disease, such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). These conditions may result in permanent brain damage, or on rare occasions, can be fatal. Symptoms of severe disease can include severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, confusion, loss of consciousness, tremors, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

For more information on the West Nile Virus and precautions you can take go to: