Report dead birds to help track West Nile virus

August 2, 2011

By Staff

What to know

In order to track West Nile virus, Public Health – Seattle & King County is asking residents to report dead birds by phone at 206-205-4394 or online at www.skcconnect.com.

Local health officials recommend residents reduce the number of mosquitoes by:

  • Tipping out containers collecting water, including barrels, buckets, wheelbarrows, bottles, wading pools, birdbaths, animal troughs and plant saucers.
  • Dumping water off of tarps and plastic sheeting, and disposing of used tires.
  • Cleaning garden ponds, circulating water in fountains and placing mosquito screens over rain barrels.
  • Cleaning leaf-clogged gutters and repairing leaky outdoor faucets.
  • Repairing ripped windows and door screens — and making sure they fit tight, so adult mosquitoes cannot enter the home.
  • Helping elderly neighbors mosquito-proof residences.

King County public health officials need community members to crow about dead birds in order to track the West Nile virus.

Public Health – Seattle & King County is asking residents to report dead birds. Crows, in particular, die quickly from West Nile virus, and clusters of dead crows could indicate the presence of the virus.

Officials did not detect West Nile virus in King County last year, but the virus has been active locally in the past.

Most people do not feel the effects of the infection, but in others, West Nile disease can cause severe symptoms, including diseases of the brain and spinal cord. West Nile disease caused 57 deaths in the United States last year, out of 1,021 reported cases in 41 states.

Throughout the summer and early fall, Public Health – Seattle & King County plans to collect dead birds deemed suitable for laboratory testing. The birds must be a crow, raven, jay or magpie; dead for less than 24 hours; and have no visible trauma or decay in order to be tested.

The mosquito most responsible for West Nile virus in King County is the northern house mosquito, culex pipiens. The species prefers to lay eggs in standing water. Even small amounts of water, such as in plant saucers or a clogged gutter, can produce many mosquitoes.

People can avoid mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks. Health officials recommend for people to consider using insect repellent, too.

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