07/09/2001 12:00AM

West Nile found in Florida crow


Florida health officials have found the West Nile virus in a crow in what appears to be the state's first confirmed presence of the potentially lethal illness, according to an Associated Press report.

The dead crow was found last month near the state capital of Tallahassee.

West Nile virus, first reported in New York in the summer of 1999, has killed nine people there and in New Jersey since then. In 1999, the United States Department of Agriculture reported that 25 horses had been infected with the virus; in 2000, there were 60 cases of West Nile Virus infection in horses.

Twenty-three of last year's infected horses died or were euthanized. Human and equine infections have so far been limited to Northeastern states.

Mosquitoes that feed on infected birds transmit the disease to humans and horses. Bird populations have provided the first warning of West Nile in several states as the virus has moved gradually southward with migratory patterns.

The West Nile virus, which before last year had never been identified in the Western Hemisphere, causes encephalitis that affects the central nervous system.