West Nile Virus Found in North Carolina

The U.S. Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center, confirmed Oct. 20 that a dead crow found in North Carolina is positive for West Nile Virus, the first evidence of the disease found in the state. The crow was found September 27 at Jordan Lake State Park in Chatham County by a conservation biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. West Nile Virus can be transmitted to humans when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a human.

West Nile Virus originates from Africa, west Asia, and Europe. It was first found in the United States last summer in New York City. Since then West Nile Virus has spread down the eastern seaboard of the United States. Evidence of the virus has been found in eleven states, including North Carolina. Friday, Oct. 13, a dead crow in Virginia was confirmed to have West Nile Virus.

"This isn't a surprise," said State Health Director Dennis McBride. "We knew the virus could be spread by migratory birds. That's why we have been on the lookout for any signs. We've told the public that if they saw dead birds, especially crows, they should report those findings and let us send the bird to the lab for testing. This just shows that our educational efforts have paid off."

Because it is late in the mosquito season and the weather is becoming cooler, mosquito populations are declining, reducing the risk of mosquito-borne disease to horses and humans. For this reason, public health officials will not spray pesticides in the area where the bird was found.

"We are getting very close to the time of year when mosquitoes aren't a problem in North Carolina; there's simply no reason to spray pesticides," said McBride. "We plan to collect and test mosquitoes in the area to look for further evidence of the virus. We will also increase surveillance for West Nile Virus in Chatham County and throughout the state by mosquito and dead bird collection and testing. We really encourage citizens to help us in this effort. Please let us know if you find dead birds." North Carolina residents can report dead birds to the Public Health Pest Management Section by calling 877/790-1747 or e-mailing NCWNV@NCmail.net. An online form for reporting dead birds is also available at www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/phpm/deadbirdform/index.html.

After the suspected crow was picked up in Chatham County, it was sent to the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin for testing. After the virus was isolated in a cell culture, its identity was confirmed by Reverse Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing.

North Carolina is very experienced in managing mosquito-borne disease. Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been found in two humans and numerous animals this year. Management of West Nile Virus will be added to the mosquito surveillance program already in place in the state.

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