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August 27, 2002  


Charlotte, NC – The North Carolina Division of Public Health has informed the Mecklenburg County Health Department that it will no longer test dead birds collected in the County for West Nile virus. 

In a release to County health officials, the State outlined changes in its policy that stipulate that once a county has confirmed five positive birds during a given season the lab will no longer test birds from that county.  So far this year, 19 birds collected in Mecklenburg County have tested positive for West Nile virus.  

The State says the decision was based on the fact that once that many birds have tested positive its presence is confirmed in that community and further testing is unnecessary.  The policy will also allow the state to conserve resources so they can be focused on areas that have not yet identified West Nile virus. In keeping with this policy, as of August 28, the Public Health Laboratory will no longer test birds from Mecklenburg and Guilford counties. 

“We can live with the State’s decision,” says Health Director Peter Safir, “but there are scientific and epidemiological reasons to continue tracking the spread of this disease if resources would allow.”  Safir says he has assurance from the State that they will continue to test mosquitoes from Mecklenburg. 

Despite the end of dead bird testing, Safir says people are still encouraged to call the Health Department to report dead birds in order to help the Department track their location.  

There has not been a human case of West Nile virus in Mecklenburg County or elsewhere in North Carolina.   

The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are at the highest risk for developing complications from West Nile virus.  Those in these highest risk groups should take particular caution to limit their exposure to mosquito bites.  Long sleeves and long pants should be worn outdoors, as should mosquito repellants containing DEET.  Activity during the early morning and at dusk should be limited as this is when mosquitoes are most active, too. Property owners should keep outdoor water containers like buckets, old tires or animal drinking bowls emptied or full of fresh water in order to keep mosquitoes from breeding in them. 

For more information about protecting yourself and eliminating mosquito-breeding areas on your property, log onto the Health Department’ s Web site .  Look for the “Skeeter Defeater” logo.  To report mosquito problems, call the Health Department’s Public Health Pest Management Program at 704-336-5101.  To report dead birds call the Department’s dead bird hotline at 704-353-0350. 

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