FREDERICTON, New Brunswick (AP) – Preliminary tests show a man in his 60s from a town about 10 miles from Maine could be New Brunswick’s first confirmed case of West Nile virus, according to the province’s chief medical health officer.

Dr. Wayne MacDonald said Monday that an initial screening of the man’s blood tested positive for West Nile virus, but it will be the end of the week before those results can be confirmed. The man is from Woodstock, across the border from Houlton, and had recently visited Maine, Canadian officials said.

“Further tests have been ordered and sent to the national microbiology lab in Winnipeg to determine whether this is West Nile virus and whether this is a recent or old infection,” said MacDonald, who oversees public health in New Brunswick.

MacDonald said there has yet to be a positive test for the virus in New Brunswick, either in birds or humans.

MacDonald said the province has been testing for West Nile for the past three years, and that it would be unusual for the virus to appear in humans before it is detected in birds.

“Normally, birds show up positive often a year before the first human case,” he said.

MacDonald said the man had traveled to Maine before he showed neurological symptoms typical of West Nile in June; the man is now recuperating at home. While West Nile virus has not been detected in birds in New Brunswick, it has been found in birds in Maine, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

“It is all around us and, yes, it is very possible we will see it in this province,” MacDonald said, adding that mosquito monitoring has shown the province has the right varieties of the insect to carry the virus.

MacDonald said the man donated blood in June, but Canadian Blood Services spokesman Derek Mellon said the blood has been removed from the system. Mellon said the man donated blood on June 12, about five days before he showed up at his physician’s office in Woodstock complaining of neurological problems.

Canadian Blood Services has now begun to screen every unit of blood it collects for West Nile virus.

Since West Nile’s debut in North America in the summer of 1999 in the New York area, 4,000 people have been infected with the virus in the United States, about 400 in Ontario and 19 in Quebec.

Named for the region of Uganda where the disease first appeared in 1937, West Nile virus is carried and spread by mosquitoes. While most people who become infected suffer only mild symptoms, the virus can also cause swelling of the brain and be fatal.

It is spread through mosquito bites, and dead birds indicate its presence.

AP-ES-07-08-03 1835EDT

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