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By Carmen Ensinger
The Greene County Health Department is seeking the public’s assistance in obtaining dead birds to submit to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to test for the presence of West Nile Virus (WNV).
“It is our goal to detect any early season West Nile Virus activity promoted by weather conditions this spring,” Greene County Health Department Public Health Administrator Molly Peters said. “As the summer becomes drier, we will see an increase in the common house mosquito population, which is the disease transmitter of the West Nile Virus to humans.”
But the origin of the virus begins with the bird population. Mosquitos become infected when they feed on infected birds. The infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to humans and then other animals.
The IDPH is specifically looking for “perching birds” in addition to crows, blue jays, robins, cardinals, catbirds, mockingbirds, man species of sparrows, finches, flycatchers, swallows, warblers, wrens and small or medium size hawks or owls.
Should one of the above birds be found, please contact the Health Department at 217-942-6961, Ext. 102 and a member of staff will retrieve the bird for submission to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois for testing.
Vector Control/Arbovirus Surveillance from IDPH indicates that WNV arrived in Illinois at the end of the summer of 2001. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that counties with a WNV-positive bird before Aug. 1 were twice as likely to have a human case than those who recorded a WNV-positive bird after Aug. 1. There, the dead birds will be accepted for testing beginning May 15 and running through Oct. 15.
Certain criteria must be met for a bird to be accepted for testing.
• a bird must have been dead for less than 48 hours to be tested.
• Must have died singly (birds dying from WNV are usually found alone, scattered over a wide area versus birds that die from other causes, such as from a storm, food poisoning, etcetera.)
• Bird must not be decomposed (strong odor present, dried/deflated eyes, maggots present or bloated with decomposition gases or damaged by scavenging animals.)
• Bird should show no obvious cause of death. For example, isn’t crushed, shot or killed by a motor vehicle.
Peters said there are several things one can do to help prevent mosquitos from congregating and thus rising the spread of the virus.
“One of the best measures to decrease the mosquito population is to eliminate all ponding or pooling of water around your home,” Peters said. “The growth stage of the mosquito is 10 days from egg to an adult so if you have anything, such as a kiddy pool or bird bath or pet water bowls, you should change them weekly.”