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First of Dead Birds Collected are Negative for West Nile

Charlotte, NC - None of the first five dead birds shipped from Mecklenburg County to the state lab have tested positive for West Nile virus; test results are still pending on another six birds. These are the first dead birds collected this year since the state began accepting them for testing last month.

In addition to blue jays, American crows and raptors such as hawks and owls, this is the first year that dead cardinals will be targeted for West Nile virus testing in North Carolina. This targeted testing will likely occur for only a short period of time since the NC State Public Health Laboratory has stated it will stop accepting birds for testing from an individual county once a positive bird is identified.

To report targeted dead birds, call the Health Department's Public Health Pest Management Program at 704-353-0350. For questions about mosquitoes, call 704-336-5101.

Report dead birds immediately. Birds dead longer than 24 to 36 hours may not be suitable for testing. When a dead bird is found, it should be secured, regardless of whether it will be tested for West Nile. Children, stray cats and dogs or other animals may pick up a bird if it's left unprotected. The bird should be placed in a plastic bag, bucket, or comparable container and, if possible, kept in a cool place. Birds should never be handled directly. Use a shovel or similar device to pick them up and always wear protective gloves.

West Nile virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus can infect people, horses, many types of birds and some other animals. Most infected humans and animals will not have any symptoms.

There were six reported human cases of West Nile virus in North Carolina last year. One of those cases was in a Mecklenburg County resident. In 2002, the Health Department submitted 118 birds for West Nile virus testing. These birds were collected from 26 Mecklenburg County zip codes. Of those birds, 62 tested positive for West Nile virus.

The best protection from West Nile virus continues to be protecting yourself from mosquito bites. To do so:

· Stay inside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

· Use repellants containing DEET and follow directions closely.

· Wear long sleeves and long pants.

· Eliminate standing water sources that may be potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

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