Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District Public Affairs Director Deborah Bass said that they received the report on June 28. Bass said initially the bird tested negative for the virus, but standard procedure is to recheck any negative reading with an outside agency. In this case, the check showed a positive reading for West Nile. The case was confirmed July 8.
The bird death is the first documented case of West Nile found in the county so far in 2009. She said that her office has received nearly 600 reports of dead birds so far this year. Of those, 79 have been brought in for testing, with only one positive result.
"But each call is important," Bass explained, "each dead bird lets us track incidents of the virus and tells us where human cases could occur." This allows the district to concentrate their surveillance and mitigation efforts to best effect.
Any person who finds a dead bird is warned not to handle the carcass with bare hands. Residents should contact the state hotline at 1-877-968-2473. Bass said that the hotline operator will ask the reporting resident a serious of questions designed to determine the viability of the bird as a vector for West Nile. If the probability is high, the bird will be picked up by a district representative, if not the resident is urged to carefully pack up the remains and dispose of them.
In addition, as summer is the season where mosquitoes are most active, the district is recommending that residents take reasonable precautions, especially at dawn and dusk when the insects are most active. Some of those include: wear insect repellant; drain sources of standing water on properties, check door and window screens and dress appropriately in long sleeves and pants when outdoors.
The Centers for Disease Control said that only 20% of those bitten by an infected mosquito will develop any symptoms. The majority will exhibit flu-like symptoms. Doctors said that in 1 case out of 150 the victim will show severe symptoms such as convulsions and paralysis. Persons over 50 are at greater risk due to a weaker immune system.