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Dead birds no longer wanted by county

OK, you can stop sending dead birds now.

That’s the message from the Island County Health Department, which has been busy handling calls about dead birds and some of the dead birds themselves.

The public’s interest in dead birds grew out of the fear of West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne bug that threatens the health of birds, horses and humans. A health department warning that the virus was found in nearby Snohomish promoted reaction on Whidbey Island.

“We got over a hundred calls for information about birds,” said Amanda Benz, Island County environmental health specialist, on Monday. “It definitely kept the day busy.”

Mosquitos infect birds with the virus, and birds then fly it around the country. But to date no birds in Island County have been found with the virus.

Benz said four birds, including three crows and a Stellar’s jay, were sent in for testing from Island County. Those tests are conducted in Wisconsin. “They were all negative,” Benz said.

Island County is calling for a cessation of calls about bird and dead bird deliveries at least for the winter months. This follows a state Health Department decision to suspend its bird surveillance program at least until next spring.

According to a news release from the state, the cooler weather has impaired mosquito breeding for the remainder of this year and until warmer weather returns. “Surveillance of the disease in birds has already indicated the virus to have established itself in the Pacific Northwest, but since the mosquito that spreads the disease is no longer breeding, there is little need to continue examining dead birds,” the release states.

Both the county and state now request that the public refrain from calling about dead birds until the surveillance program resumes next spring.

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