A 15 year resident of South Pasadena was going about her day on July 28, 2017, when her children ran in to tell her there was a dead bird in their yard. Expecting a gruesome sight, she immediately thought something was strange because “the bird was perfect so I took a photo knowing the West Nile Virus was present and I had heard to look for bluejays and crows especially.” The resident went online and began researching and within seconds was led to the California Department of Public Health page for reporting a dead bird .
“They called me within two minutes to inquire about the condition of the bird, said they were monitoring for WNV. Because it looked like a newly deceased bird, they told me to wear gloves and put it on ice.” She gently scooted the bird onto a shovel and placed it in a bag with ice. “They knocked on my door twenty minutes later, put it in a cooler and told me if it tested positive I would receive a call.” Sure enough, she received the call a few days later indicating that the bird had indeed tested positive and they gave her instructions on how to protect her family. Thank you to this informed resident for her diligence!
So what does this mean for South Pasadena? We spoke with the California Department of Public Health to find out. First off, you are not in danger of getting WNV from a dead bird. Should you find a new, intact, dead bird, especially a crow, magpie, bluejay or sparrow, immediately call 1-877-WNV-BIRD (877-968-2473) or visit the website.
The bird must be tested within 24 hours to get an accurate result. If you can, gently place the bird on ice, using gloves to protect yourself from claws, beaks and any leakage. Again, you are not at risk of contracting WNV; WNV is transmitted to people by the bite of an infected mosquito, not from exposure to dead birds. These precautions are so that you don’t get hurt. If you are unable to dispose of the bird, it is recommended that you contact your local animal control for assistance. Please note that every report counts. Your local vector control agency relies on these reports for West Nile Virus surveillance, especially when they cannot pick up and test the bird.
Seasonal WNV activity occurs in the summer and fall, and the risk of transmission to people varies with time. The greatest risk is typically from mid-August through mid-September, but WNV transmission can continue into October and November. WNV surveillance and control activities carried out by local vector control and public health agencies prevent disease by helping people to know when WNV is present and informing them of steps to keep themselves and their community safe. As we are in the midst of peak WNV season, residents can take steps to prevent disease by preventing mosquito bites and eliminating standing water.
It is important to note that 80% of people do not develop symptoms. 20% develop flu-like symptoms; fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting. 1% develop serious neurological symptoms. Most at risk are those over 60 and those with suppressed immune systems.
The CDPH, in partnership with local vector control agencies and local health departments, monitors West Nile virus activity in the environment and WNV disease in people. This system provides information that can be used to prevent disease. The finding of a positive dead bird underscores that WNV is circulating in the Pasadena area. So, it is very important for the public to take steps to reduce their risk of being bitten by mosquitoes and becoming infected with WNV.
What to do:
- Apply repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and clothing. For repellent information visit http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/repellent.html
- Wear long sleeves and pants when mosquitoes are biting.
- Keep screens on windows and doors in good repair.
- Reduce mosquito breeding by identifying and eliminating standing water around your home in containers such as flower pots, tires, rain barrels, bird baths, and children’s toys.
- Contact your local vector control agency if you detect unusual numbers of mosquitoes.
For further information visit CA West Nile Virus Website: http://www.westnile.ca.gov
Human data is updated every Friday by 4pm. Dead bird data updated every Wednesday and Friday by 4pm. To date in 2017, there have been 47 reported human cases in LA County with one resulting in death.