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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, August 1, 2008
Sammy Berg, Environmental Health Specialist, 360-786-5581 X-17051

Thurston County Resumes West Nile Virus Bird Monitoring

OLYMPIA – Officials with the Thurston County Health Department have resumed testing of dead birds to analyze whether West Nile virus has returned to the area.  West Nile virus is primarily a bird infection and can kill them.  Mosquitoes transmit the virus from bird to bird but sometimes bite humans or horses and infect them as well. Last year several horses were stricken with the illness in the Yakima area. This year two horses have been found infected with West Nile Virus in Yakima and Grant counties,

Most people who become infected with the virus will show no symptoms at all.  However, the illness may result in fever, headache, tiredness, body aches and sometimes a rash. Although the illness can be as short as a few days, even healthy people have been sick for several weeks. About 1 in 150 people infected with West Nile virus can experience a more severe type of disease affecting a person's nervous system and it may lead to more serious complications including death in certain cases. Those most at risk for serious illness include the young, those with immune system challenges and those over 50 years of age.

Dozens of suspected dead birds were collected in Thurston County in 2007 but tests showed none of the birds were infected.  A similar program is underway this year and one bird sample has already been sent to a lab at Washington State University for testing. Sammy Berg of the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department says county residents can help with bird monitoring efforts.  "If you see a dead bird, please leave that information on our Dead Bird Reporting line at (360) 754-3355 ext. 6659.  We especially want to hear about dead crows and jays. When reporting let us know the location where the bird was found, the species of the bird, and the number of the birds observed.  Also leave your name and a telephone number if we need to obtain additional information from you."  Berg says folks should NOT call if it is obvious that the bird died from some trauma or if the bird has been dead for a long time.

People should also take some precautions to avoid contracting West Nile virus.  Steps include-

  • Wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants while outside.
  • Avoiding areas where mosquitoes are present.
  • Using a "DEET" based or other appropriate insect repellent when contact with mosquitoes is unavoidable. (Be careful to follow label directions.)
  • Limiting outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are more active.
  • Repairing and using window and door screens.

Homeowners can also take steps to reduce mosquito habitat around the home through activities such as cleaning standing water out of their rain gutters, removing used tires or open containers outside where water collects in them and by cleaning out bird baths once a week.

Those who want more information on West Nile virus and bird reporting can visit the Thurston County website- Thurston County Public Health and Social Services http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehwnv/index.html.

County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3