DHEC asks for public's help to track West Nile Virus in S.C.

DHEC asks for public's help to track West Nile Virus in S.C.

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is asking the public to submit certain species of dead birds so health officials can test for the West Nile Virus.

A high death rate from WNV in birds alerts DHEC to virus activity in a particular area of the state, health officials say. That data is then reported to local mosquito control programs to protect the health of people in affected communities.

DHEC is requesting that residents report or submit to local DHEC officers recently-deceased (non-injured, non-decayed) specimens of the following:

  • Crows
  • Blue Jays
  • House Finches
  • House Sparrows

The specimens should be submitted through the end of November.

Residents are discouraged from submitting grackles. Grackles are black or brown birds, that look a lot like crows but are much smaller, with a purple or green sheen to their head depending on the angle and light.

When residents submit birds other than crows, blue jays, house finches, and house sparrows, DHEC will decide whether or not to test those birds on a case-by-case basis.

DHEC will not test birds that die as a part of a mass die-off at a single time and place. Mass die-offs are typically caused by something other than WNV.

"The dead bird surveillance program plays a key role in alerting the department to West Nile virus activity across the state," DHEC Public Health Entomologist Dr. Chris Evans said. "The public's involvement with dead bird surveillance covers a wide area and helps identify West Nile virus before it shows up in people."

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

DHEC will accept other types of birds from veterinarians affiliated with zoos, raptor rehabilitation centers, and similar facilities if WNV is suspected as the cause of illness.

To safely collect a dead bird, it is important to follow these instructions:

  • 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.

For more information, click here to visit the DHEC site.

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