The health department had three dead birds tested positive for traces of West Nile virus this week. Added to the three birds that tested positive last week, the total number of infected birds now stands at six. The disease has appeared in two sparrows, two cardinals, an owl and a blue jay. The six birds came from West Baton Rouge, Rapides, Ouachita, Lafayette, Calcasieu and Tangipahoa parishes.
“Our main concern now is that we are seeing West Nile activity throughout the state,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard said. “This indicates the virus is spreading across Louisiana.”
Blue jays, crows, cardinals, grackles, seagulls, house sparrows, birds of prey and sentinel chickens will be tested for West Nile virus this year. The Department of Health and Hospitals’ Office of Public Health officially began 2003 West Nile surveillance March 21 and has sent 60 birds to the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine’s Diagnostic Lab for testing. Citizens have reported 409 dead birds to public health officials. No human cases of West Nile virus have been reported for 2003.
During the 2002 outbreak, in 90 percent of the parishes where West Nile virus was found in humans, LDH surveillance detected it first in bird populations. Early detection allows mosquito abatement and prevention efforts to be targeted to specific communities and neighborhoods.
To protect yourself from West Nile virus, apply mosquito repellant, wear long sleeves and long pants and avoid wearing perfumes or colognes when outside for prolonged periods of time. Also, remove any standing water from around your home and make sure your windows and doors have secure screens.
For more information on West Nile virus, please visit the OPH Web site, www.FightTheBiteLouisiana.com.
REPORTING DEAD BIRDS
During the Day
Call the nearest parish health unit to report a dead bird. Provide the location and species of birds (or at least size and color).
After Hours and Weekends
Freeze the bird immediately and contact the nearest parish health unit the following business day. Or, citizens can call 1-800-256-2748. Press "3" and this voice mail will allow you to report a dead bird. Be sure to leave your name, phone number and the parish where the bird was found. There might be a slight delay in your call being returned. The voice mail system also provides the toll-free hotline for information on West Nile virus from the CDC.
Note: People cannot contract West Nile virus by touching dead birds, but should take precautions when handling them. Do not handle a dead bird with bare hands and double bag it with plastic bags before bringing it to the health unit.
Funds For Local Efforts
OPH has announced $500,000 in funds from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for the 44 parishes with no mosquito abatement programs or ones that became operational after Jan. 1, 2002, to use in preparation for a West Nile crisis. Parishes can contact OPH’s Center for Environmental Health Services at (225) 763-5553 for additional information on applying for these grants.
U.S. Rep. Chris John (La.-7) and Rep. Billy Tauzin (La.-3) cosponsored the Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health Act (MASH), which passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate in the coming weeks.
This legislation will provide a 2 for 1 match up to $100,000 for parishes to create or maintain a mosquito program, regardless of its inception date. This money also will be delivered through grants from the CDC.