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Who let the skeeters out?
Spring has sprung and so it is time for the skies to be filled with sunshine and warmth and hungry, flying pests.
Yes, every spring mosquitos come out in full force to make feasts of any living creature unfortunate enough to be landed upon. And, like every year before this one, those stinging annoyances carry with them the threat of West Nile virus.
While West Nile virus is primarily found in birds, it is a non-discriminatory illness that doesnt mind infecting humans. Mosquitos are generous creatures as they spread the disease by stinging infected birds, then sharing with any animal or human it bites thereafter.
A majority of folks who get bitten by mosquitos carrying West Nile wont get sick, while some may feel the flu achies that will go away without being treated. In a handful of cases, West Nile can make folks seriously ill, according to information from the Washington State Department of Health.
Keith Grellner, assistant director of the environmental health division for the Kitsap County Health Department, said so far West Nile has not been found in Kitsap County. The county Health Department is on the lookout for signs of the virus, however.
Because West Nile virus is a bird disease, one of the first signs of West Nile in the area is a large population of dead birds, Grellner said. When a Kitsaper finds a dead bird, they should call the Health Department to report the location of the bird (the nearest street address), what kind of bird it is and the date it was found, Grellner said. West Nile mostly affects corvids, or crows and jays.
We used dead bird reports as a survey tool to get an early indication of whether West Nile virus might be active in the area, Grellner said.
So far, the number of dead birds reported is on par with last year, which does not indicate a problem.
While birds dying is natural, what we look for is if all the sudden we see a large spark of dead birds, he said. A large influx of dead birds is a sign that we should look harder and may do a test of birds to see if there is West Nile in the area.
The countys Health Department staff does not have the time or the financial resources to test all dead birds for the virus, he said. If there is a spike of dead crows and jays in the county, the Health