Delaware asks residents to report finding dead birds

DOVER — DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife Mosquito Control Section wants to know more about dead birds people might spot.

The division is asking for the public’s help in monitoring West Nile virus in Delaware by reporting the discovery of sick or dead wild birds that may have contracted the virus. West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne disease of concern to human health and to owners of unvaccinated horses.

The division’s Mosquito Control Section wants reports on only dead crows, blue jays, cardinals, robins, hawks or owls. It also wants to know if people spot clusters of five or more sick or dead wild birds of any species.

Bird specimens should have been dead for less than 24 hours and not appear to have died or been killed by other obvious causes.

“We are interested in when and where West Nile virus might first appear in Delaware this year and in monitoring the timing and locations of its possible spread throughout the state,” said Dr. William Meredith, Delaware Mosquito Control administrator. “Our sampling strategy this year will be to collect and test a sample of wild birds found throughout the state from early June to late September.”

Birds collected by Mosquito Control are processed by the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Poultry & Animal Health Lab, and are then submitted to the Delaware Division of Public Health laboratory for virus testing.

From early July through mid- to late October, Mosquito Control also will operate its statewide network of about 20 sentinel chicken stations placed in prime mosquito areas, which “keep watch” for West Nile and eastern equine encephalitis, another mosquito-borne viral disease that affects horses and humans.

“The prevalence of prime mosquito production habitats in Delaware, combined with our high human population density, presents quite a challenge, but our effective approach to controlling mosquitoes has helped reduce the frequency of West Nile virus transmission and prevent large outbreaks,” Dr. Meredith said.

In 2015, two mosquito-related human cases of West Nile were reported in Delaware, neither of them fatal.

Wild birds are considered better indicators of West Nile early in the season from May through July than Mosquito Control’s sentinel chickens, which become better indicators later, from August through October. The period of greatest concern for disease transmission is in late summer and early fall, Dr. Meredith said.

Dr. Meredith said uncollected specimens will not transmit West Nile to humans or to pets that come in contact with a sick or dead bird. Dead birds can be left to decompose in place or can be buried or bagged and disposed of in the garbage. He does recommend avoiding direct skin contact by wearing gloves and/or by using a shovel.

Sick or dead birds can be reported to the Mosquito Control Section between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, by calling Mosquito Control’s field offices:

• New Castle County and northern Kent County from Dover north, call (302) 836-2555

• Remainder of southern Kent County and all of Sussex County, call (302) 422-1512

A message can be left after hours. Callers should give their name, phone number, address and leave a brief message.

The same numbers also may be used to report intolerable numbers of biting mosquitoes to help the Mosquito Control Section determine when and where to provide control services. For more information on Delaware’s Mosquito Control program, please call the main office at (302) 739-9917.

Zika and chikungunya viruses are two other mosquito-borne diseases currently found in South and Central America and the Caribbean. Concern exists of these viruses possibly occurring in local mosquito populations in Southern and Middle-Atlantic areas of the United States, including Delaware. Neither involves wild birds as hosts, but are transmitted by mosquitoes person-to-person.

For more information about West Nile virus in humans, please contact the Delaware Division of Public Health at (302) 744-1033 or (888) 295-5156.

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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