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Doves, Prepared Properly, Not a West Nile Virus Threat to Hunters

The following is a joint press release produced by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and N.C. Division of Environmental Health.

RALEIGH, N.C. (Sept. 4)óDove season opened Sept. 1, and hunters should not be concerned that handling or eating the birds will transmit West Nile virus or other mosquito-borne illnesses. No evidence exists that West Nile virus (WNV), Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) or LaCrosse virus are spread in any manner other than from mosquito bites, so preventing bites is central to protecting against the diseases. The Wildlife Resources Commission and the Division of Environmental Health recommend that hunters take normal precautions when preparing and eating game, including wearing gloves, washing hands after handling birds, and thoroughly cooking meat.

Hunters often remain still for long periods, making them inviting targets for mosquitoes. Hunters should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and mosquito-transmitted diseases. To avoid mosquito bites, wear long sleeves and long pants and use a mosquito repellent containing DEET at concentrations of 30 percent or less. DEET products should be used according to label instructions.

WNV, EEE and Lacrosse are transmitted by mosquitoes. Wild birds serve as natural hosts for the viruses. Mosquitoes bite the birds and then can transmit the viruses to humans and animals. A person canít catch the diseases from another person or an infected animal. North Carolina has recorded human cases of all three diseases this year ó six cases of WNV, including one contracted outside North Carolina, one case of EEE, and six cases of LaCrosse. Currently, no vaccine for humans is available for any of these illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. Twenty percent of the people infected with WNV will develop West Nile fever, which is a mild illness with fever, headaches, body aches, an occasional skin rash and swollen lymph nodes. The CDC estimates that only one in 150 people infected with WNV will experience severe infection, called West Nile encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or meningoencephalitis, a combination of both. Symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. People over 50 years old have the highest risk of severe disease and possible death. The incubation period in humans is usually three to 15 days.

EEE is a rare disease that attacks the central nervous system, causes inflammation of the brain and can be fatal to animals and humans. About 50 percent of human EEE cases are fatal, with young children and the elderly most at risk. Symptoms can develop from a few days to two weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. They include rapid onset of fever and headache and can resemble a case of the flu.

Survivors of EEE infections may suffer from long-term effects to the nervous system. Therapy is limited to treating the symptoms of the disease; there is no specific cure.

La Crosse virus is the most common mosquito-borne illness in North Carolina. It is found predominantly in the western part of the state. On average, 70 cases of La Crosse virus occur annually in the United States. In 2002, North Carolina had 20 cases of La Crosse. La Crosse is rarely fatal, although a Transylvania County girl died from the disease in 2001.

Anyone exhibiting the symptoms listed above should contact his or her health care provider.

See more information on hunting and West Nile virus here. For information on the health effects of West Nile virus or other mosquito-borne illnesses, visit or




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