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Bird in Cambria tests positive for West Nile virus

A bird found in Cambria on Aug. 18 has tested positive for West Nile virus.

It’s the first case to be reported in the county this year.

According to the San Luis Obispo County Health Department, the virus has been detected in 20 other counties around the state in 2011, with a human infection reported in Santa Barbara County in July.

The virus is spread through mosquitoes that feed on infected birds or squirrels, according to the health agency. Those mosquitoes then transmit the disease to humans and animals. Horses can be especially susceptible.

Although about 80 percent of those who are bitten by an infected mosquito may not show symptoms, people older than 50 and those with suppressed immune systems may be at risk.

Symptoms generally show up in five to 15 days and include fever, headaches and body aches, according to a Health Department news release.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile was first isolated in East Africa in 1973 and arrived in the U.S. by 1999. It first appeared in California in 2003 and has since been reported in all 58 counties.

The CDC recommends that people who live in areas where West Nile has been identified wear insect repellent while outdoors; limit outdoor activities between dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are active; check screens on doors and windows to make sure they're secure; and drain any standing outdoor water from flowerpots, buckets, rain gutters or children’s wading pools when not in use.

To report a dead bird, call the state’s hotline at 1-877-968-2473 or make an online report at westnile.ca.gov.

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