KING COUNTY, WASHINGTON - With the mosquito season underway and West Nile virus once again a concern, King County residents are asked to contact Public Health with reports of dead birds. 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.
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."
Beginning this week 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.
Protect yourself from mosquitoes by eliminating their breeding habitat:
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.
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 and 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
- Help elderly neighbors with these actions
Tips 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 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. Horses are susceptible to West Nile virus infection, which can result in severe disease or death; horse owners should contact their veterinarian because a vaccine is available for horses. 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, when West Nile virus is of most concern, runs from spring through late fall.