PRINCETON — Area surveillance for the West Nile Virus (WNV) has confirmed a dead crow in Sterling has tested positive for the virus.
The Sauk Valley News Daily Gazette reported on July 17 that Whiteside County Public Health Administrator Beth Fiorini had issued a press release confirming a crow had contracted the virus from a Culex mosquito, the primary spreader of the disease.
Bureau/Putnam County Health Department’s Director of Health Protection Kurt Kuchle said local WNV surveillance continues, but the health department is having problem getting birds for testing this year. The health department has sent in only one dead bird for WNV testing this year. The bird was from the Granville area and tested negative for WNV.
The health department has received other birds, but the birds which the health department has picked up so far, or were brought to the health department, have all been too decomposed.
In order to be tested, a bird has to be fresh, dead less than 12 hours. In cases when birds have been brought to the health department on a Friday, those birds will not keep, even with ice packs, until Monday when the state lab reopens, he said.
The health department recommends the public not handle the birds too much. The best way to pick up the bird is with a plastic bag and then place it in a second bag, which should be put in a cooler or refrigerator if the bird is found after department open hours. Obviously, he is not talking about a cooler or refrigerator that is used for food, he said.
As a reminder, the local health department needs five birds from Bureau County and five birds from Putnam County to be sent to WNV testing. The health department would like to get at least two birds in July and two birds in August from each county. The quarterly reports to the Department of Public Health don’t look so good without numbers to report, positive or negative, he said.
“I’m sure other health department are having the same problems. We are conducting the required activities, but the reports don’t reflect a whole lot of activity. The Department of Public Health does ask for hours spent on collecting and testing, but not how many birds that were collected but could not be tested,” he said.
As far as local mosquito surveillance, Kuchle said the health department has tested five mosquito batches from Putnam County and 10 from Bureau County. All have been negative, he said.
Though he hadn’t yet seen the most current numbers from the state, the number of positive birds and mosquitoes is lower than last year, Kuchle said. There are plenty of mosquitoes, but lower WNV activity. That low activity is most likely weather-related, he said.
Typically, Kuchle said the WNV season would be entering peak activity this week. However, this year’s peak could be as late as the third week of August, he added.
“Cool and wet usually means less West Nile; hot and dry usually means more,” Kuchle said. “No one can predict, but the arrow is pointing toward a low number of human cases this year. But, people should continue to follow the standard mosquito protection precautions. I do know that if you want to be eaten alive, pick green beans or anything else form my garden at dusk.”
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