Health department officials are no longer testing birds to trace the West Nile virus. They are going after the source - mosquitoes.
For the past two years, the Columbia County Health Department collected dead birds found by residents and sent them to the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in hopes of tracing West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses.
"We have sent off nearly 30 birds already this year and none of them have tested positive for West Nile, which is a big change from last year. We shipped off 11 birds last year, five of which tested positive," said Andrea Frazier, the health department's environmental health specialist.
West Nile appears to be on the decline compared to recent years, Frazier said, which is surprising since a wet spring and summer has sent mosquitoes swarming.
The department has stopped accepting dead birds and has begun mosquito surveillance. Columbia County joins four other counties in the 13-county East Central District.
Andrea Frazier, an
environmental health inspector for Columbia County, sets a mosquito trap near Reed Creek.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"They are worse this year," Frazier said. "I think that is why not only is the bird surveillance being done, which is a very useful tool, but I think that is why the (state) wants to switch to the mosquito surveillance because they want to see exactly what is going on with the disease at the state level," Frazier said.
The Columbia County Health Department is one of five in the 13-county East Central district to track West Nile through mosquito surveillance. With a grant, the department purchased four mosquito traps, forceps, Petri dishes and other accessories needed to capture and sort mosquitoes to ship to UGA for testing.
The county has two light traps and two gravid traps. Mosquitoes are attracted to the light of the light trap after dark. The gravid trap - using a mixture of fermented hay and water - specifically attracts the female culex mosquito, which is known to carry West Nile.
The traps, put into use late last month, are set in the evenings on county property in areas the department has received complaints, including along Reed Creek behind Lakeside Middle School and near a boggy area behind Creekwalk Drive. When a specific area is not targeted, the traps are set randomly around the county on public property, Frazier said.
Testing mosquitoes instead of dead birds is a more accurate indicator of West Nile and other mosquito-carried diseases, Frazier said.
Residents with dead birds now can dispose of them as the department is no longer accepting them for testing. Animal control can pick the birds up if residents are concerned about disposing of them themselves.
For more information, call the health department at 541-1318 or visit www.health.state.ga.us/.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.