ANNAPOLIS – Two crows found in and near Rockville have tested positive for West Nile virus, bringing the total of infected Maryland crows to 21 this year.
The finding marks an expansion of the West Nile virus into a fifth Maryland jurisdiction, Montgomery County.
Six other crows found in Baltimore city and county also tested positive for the virus this week. The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s lab received the crows on Monday and Tuesday, but the news of their infection wasn’t released until Thursday afternoon.
The Montgomery County crows were found in the 14,000 block of Melinda Lane, which is in the Manor Woods area east of Rockville, and in the first block of Vallingby Circle, which is in the New Mark Commons area in southern Rockville.
Rockville Mayor Rose G. Krasnow said the Maryland Department of Agriculture will spray for mosquitoes within a two-mile radius of where the crows were found.
Poor weather conditions expected for the weekend, however, could push the spraying back to early Oct. 10, said Mary Anderson, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman.
“I don’t view this as a particularly frightening threat,” said Krasnow, who said she believes the community needs to become more aware and informed of the problem.
“My impression so far is that people get a little nervous right away,” said Krasnow. “I don’t think most people have a clue at this point who is really most affected.”
The crows are vectors for the disease which, when transferred to the mosquito population, becomes a threat to humans. West Nile virus has symptoms similar to encephalitis and is especially harmful to persons with weak immune systems, including children and the elderly. Warning signs include fever, stiff neck, mental confusion and limb paralysis.
A Montgomery County community meeting is planned for Saturday, although the time and location have not yet been confirmed. More information is available by calling the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services at (240) 777-1755.
Davis Hill, president of the Hungerford-Stoneridge Civic Association, which represents the community just east of the Rockville location where an infected crow was found, said he is worried media coverage of the virus has caused unnecessary fear, even though it is “a serious health concern.”
Hill said there are a couple crow-gathering spots in his neighborhood, and he would hate to see the crows’ public image tarnished.
Some officials are hoping the cool weather expected this weekend will bring an early end to the mosquito season, and help reduce the risk to humans.
“When we get the first hard freeze, we will largely have the end of this mosquito season,” said Don Vandrey, state Department of Agriculture spokesman.
The weather forecast for Rockville is breezy turning cooler into the weekend, blustery and cold with a chance of showers on Sunday and lows in the 30s on Monday, according to the National Weather Service. If temperatures fall below 55 degrees, wind speeds exceed 10 mph or rain falls, the department won’t be able to spray.
Even so, Vandrey said, “We don’t expect the mosquito season to end before the end of the month.”
Crow infection does not necessarily mean Maryland’s mosquitoes are carrying the virus, however state officials said that is inevitable. The state is “trying to prevent as long as possible the disease becoming resident in Maryland,” said Vandrey.
The Department of Agriculture has tested more than 8,000 mosquito pools so far, and continues to test them Vandrey said, but that is “still equivalent to a needle in a hay stack.”