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People asked to report dead crows

West Nile virus concerns

Residents are asked to contact the King County public health department if they see dead birds. The request is prompted by the start of the mosquito season being under way and West Nile virus once again being a concern.

Crows in particular die quickly from West Nile virus and clusters of dead crows may indicate that West Nile virus is present in the community. Residents may call 206-205-4394 or use the on-line reporting form at: www.metrokc.gov/health/westnile/deadbird.htm.

West Nile virus was not found in King County in 2007, though in past years birds and horses have died here from the virus, which is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. The infection can be asymptomatic, but it can also cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including diseases of the brain and spinal column.

In the United States in 2007, 3,630 cases of human WNV disease were reported from 44 states, and 124 people died. People of all ages can get WNV disease, but people over 50 are more likely to become seriously ill.

“It’s difficult to predict whether or not West Nile virus will be a problem in our area this year,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “But it’s a good idea to protect your family by eliminating mosquito habitat from your property and taking precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.”

Some of the dead birds reported to Public Health will be collected for laboratory testing for West Nile virus, along with batches of mosquitoes trapped at locations throughout King County for surveillance purposes.

The mosquito that is most likely to infect King County residents with West Nile virus is Culex pipiens, or the northern house mosquito. Culex pipiens prefers to lay eggs in small amounts of standing water common around most houses. Removing this habitat will reduce the number of mosquitoes near people’s homes.

Public Health offers the following tips for reducing habitat and preparing the home:

-- Tip out containers that collect water, including barrels, buckets, wheelbarrows, bottles, and plant saucers

-- Empty children’s wading pools when not in use and change water in birdbaths and animal troughs at least once a week

-- Dump water off of tarps and plastic sheeting and get rid of used tires

-- Clean garden ponds, circulate water in fountains and cover rain barrels with mosquito screens

-- Clean leaf-clogged gutters and repair leaky outdoor faucets

-- Repair ripped windows and door screens and make sure they fit tight

To avoid getting bitten when mosquitoes are out – (often at dawn and dusk):

-- Wear long sleeve shirts, long pants and socks.

-- Consider using an insect repellent. The CDC recommends repellents containing the chemical N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), which are known to be very effective and safe for use with children and adults. It is important to read the label and follow the instructions on the label carefully. See http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/RepellentUpdates.htm

-- Long lasting and effective alternatives to products containing DEET are available. Insect repellents containing picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus may be a good choice for some individuals.

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected by biting an infected bird that carries the virus. West Nile virus is not spread by person-to-person contact, nor is it transmitted directly from birds or other animals to people. Mosquito season runs from spring through late fall.

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