Dead birds found in Merced have West Nile

Ground, overhead spraying starts

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJune 10, 2013 

— The first evidence of the West Nile virus in Merced County this year has been confirmed, according to the Merced County Mosquito Abatement District.

Two dead crows out of 13 studied last month tested positive for the virus, according to Allan Inman, manager of the abatement district.

The crows were found near 21st Street, east of G Street, and Teak Avenue near Donna Drive in north Merced. Both locations have been chronic West Nile transmission sites in the past, Inman said.

Dead birds are screened for the virus only if they meet certain criteria, he added. Anyone reporting a dead bird to the state's hot line is asked a series of questions to determine if testing is needed.

If the birds fits the bill, they're picked up by local technicians and sent to the University of California at Davis for testing, Inman said.

One bird was tested this month, 13 in May, three in April and one in March.

This year's spiking temperatures have renewed prevention efforts because the virus thrives in higher temperatures.

"It's been extremely warm, and that amplifies West Nile virus transmission," Inman said. "It's prompted us to ramp up our mosquito abatement efforts. We're fully in disease prevention and control mode now."

Technicians began ground spraying along the Black Rascal Creek and Bear Creek bike paths Wednesday night. The work continued Thursday with overhead spraying of those same areas by airplane, Inman said.

"We're not going to wait until we find a positive mosquito or human case," Inman said. "We're going to intervene before we find human cases."

Inman said there are several things Merced County residents can do to avoid mosquito bites, especially as the weather continues to warm up.

A few examples include wearing light-colored, long-sleeve clothing, avoiding mosquito habitats during dawn or dusk, and applying repellents with 30 percent DEET, a colorless oily liquid that repels mosquitoes.

Draining standing water and reporting swimming pools with mosquito infestations is important. "Without water, mosquitoes don't breed," Inman said.

To report a dead bird in Merced County, call the state hot line at (877) 968-2473.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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