Health agency wants dead birds to check for West Nile virus

Health agency wants dead birds to check for West Nile virus

South Carolina’s health agency is again asking people to bring certain types of dead birds to their offices so they can test them for West Nile virus.

Starting March 15, officials are looking for the bodies of crows, blue jays, house finches, and house sparrows that don’t appear to be injured and haven’t started decaying, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said in a news release.

Scientists will test the birds for West Nile Virus, which is spread from birds to mosquitos to humans. About one in five people infected with the virus get symptoms such as headache, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, a rash or more serious problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The more birds that have the virus in an area usually means more infected mosquitos, officials said.

Last year just two infected birds were found in South Carolina and just one in 2020. But in 2018, 87 birds found in 18 counties tested positive for West Nile virus, DHEC said.

Health officials said dead birds should not be picked up with bare hands and should be kept cool inside a bag, but not placed in a refrigerator with food or placed on ice in a cooler if water could seep into the bag.

DHEC asks anyone submitted a bird to fill out a form on its website. Locations taking birds can also be found on DHEC’s internet page.

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