DHEC: Submitting dead birds can help track West Nile virus in SC

Source: DHEC

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is asking residents to send dead birds to their local DHEC offices to help officials track the West Nile virus.

DHEC is asking people to send crows, blue jays, house finches, and house sparrows they find dead as part of the dead bird surveillance program.

"The dead bird surveillance program plays a key role in alerting the department to WNV activity across the state," Chris Evans, a PhD State Public Health Entomologist with DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services, stated in a news release. "The public's involvement with dead bird surveillance covers a wide area and helps identify West Nile virus before it shows up in people."

Evans said mosquitoes become infected with WNV when they feed on infected birds that carry the virus in their blood. The infected mosquitoes can later transmit WNV to humans and other animals. He said a high death rate from WNV in birds alerts scientists to virus activity in a particular area of the state so appropriate mosquito control measures can be taken.

. In 2017, 49 birds submitted from 19 counties tested positive for WNV.

Signs of WNV in birds include weakness, sluggishness, shaking, seizures, an inability to walk/fly/perch, blindness, or lack of fear of humans.

DHEC said recently deceased (non-injured, non-decayed) crows, blue jays, house finches, and house sparrows should be sent between mid-March through the end of November.

The agency said to follow these instructions to safely collect the animals: Do not touch a bird (dead or alive) with bare hands. Use gloves, or pick the bird up with doubled, clear plastic bags that have been turned inside out (covering your hand). Invert the bag over the bird (uncovering your hand) and seal the bird in the doubled plastic bags. Keep the bagged bird cool until it can be placed on ice or in a refrigerator. If the bird carcass cannot be delivered to DHEC within 24-36 hours of collection, freeze it until delivery or shipment. Download and complete the DHEC Dead Bird Submission and Reporting Sheet for West Nile virus and submit it, along with the dead bird, to your local DHEC office.Testing result notifications will be returned in approximately two weeks.

Read more at scdhec.gov/birdtesting.

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