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2003 News from Mecklenburg County

July 22, 2003


Charlotte, NC - Two American crows are the first birds to test positive for West Nile virus in 2003 in Mecklenburg County.  The birds were collected in the Dilworth and Davidson areas on June 24 and 26, respectively.  The National Wildlife Health Center notified the Mecklenburg County Health Department of the test results this afternoon.  So far this year, 21 birds have been shipped off for testing.  Tests results are pending on 10 other birds, 9 others tested were negative for West Nile virus. 

"This is not unexpected, since nearly half of all the birds we sent in last year tested positive for West Nile," said Dennis Salmen, program chief for the Department's Public Health Pest Management Program.

In addition to American crows, blue jays 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 of other animals may pick up a bird if left unprotected. This may mean placing it in a plastic bag, bucket, or comparable container and, if possible kept in cool place. Birds should never be handled directly. Use either 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 humans and animals that are infected with West Nile virus 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 is 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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