Case of West Nile Virus concerns Hamblen County residents

Case of West Nile Virus concerns Hamblen County residents

Posted:
"I feel like a prisoner in my own home, with only a bottle of Off for protection," Laura Sturtevant  said. "I feel like a prisoner in my own home, with only a bottle of Off for protection," Laura Sturtevant said.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

TALBOTT (WATE) -  A dead bird discovered in Hamblen County led to another confirmed case of West Nile Virus in East Tennessee.

This is the first confirmed case of the virus in that area, and there's a high level of concern because Hamblen County does not spray for mosquitoes.

Laura Sturtevant found a dead blue jay in her yard two weeks ago. On Wednesday, state officials confirmed that it tested positive for the disease.

Now Sturtevant says she's afraid to go outside. "I feel like a prisoner in my own home, with only a bottle of Off for protection," she said.

Sturtevant says she's an active bird watcher and she knew something was wrong. "I feel like that bird dying in my yard was a sign to let me know there was a problem."

After making dozens of phone calls, Sturtevant was finally connected with the Hamblen County Health Department, which sent a sample to Nashville for testing.

She received a phone call on Friday with a verbal confirmation, and Wednesday the health department says there was written confirmation as well.

"That is something that is done on a county by county basis," explained Hamblen County Health Director Sherrie Montgomery.

She also says awareness is key to defending oneself against West Nile. "I think the greater benefit would be blanketing the county with information on how to avoid contact with mosquitoes," Montgomery said.

But the health department hasn't sent out any informational packets or flyers. They say they answer any questions when people call.

Sturtevant says their advice includes wearing dark clothes, long sleeves and pants, socks, using bug spray with DEET and not going out at dawn or dusk. "But of course (the mosquitoes) are biting at all times of the day," she added.

For now, Sturtevant feels trapped, not even walking her dog in her yard.

But she says the biggest concern is for people who may not know about the problem. "I've told my neighbors on either side, behind me, across the street. That's all that I've been able to do. I'm over the age, my neighbors are all over 50 and we're the ones that they say are the most vulnerable," she worried.

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Health's East Tennessee Region says now that there's a confirmed case, an alert should go out to the people in the affected area. Other than that, she wasn't aware whether further action would be taken.

If you believe an animal on your property has the virus, you should contact your local health department.

Health officials say if you believe you have contracted the virus, you should contact your primary health care provider.

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