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Published: Friday, 7/11/2003

Additional bird species to be tested for W. Nile

Ohio health officials tracking the mosquito-borne disease West Nile virus will now test all suspicious dead birds, except for raptors, instead of only testing crows and blue jays.

However, officials still plan to stop accepting dead birds for testing after the virus is confirmed in two birds from a county or other jurisdiction.

The public is asked to notify their local health department if they see a bird that appears to have been dead less than two days and is in relatively good shape. For example, a bird that appears to have died naturally, and not hit by a car or attacked by a cat, is a good candidate.

“Those with wings ripped off or look like they've been chewed on, those aren't the specimens we're looking for,” said Konni Sutfield, who oversees West Nile virus detection efforts for the Toledo-Lucas County health department.

State officials are testing more than just crows and blue jays because so far this year they've received few crows or blue jays.

Kristopher Weiss, an Ohio Department of Health spokesman, said it's likely there are fewer crows and blue jays around because the virus has reduced their populations.

The disease affects more than 130 different bird species, including robins, mourning doves, and swallows.

Testing dead birds to see if they're positive for the virus is used to help determine where the virus is active. So far this year, 160 birds have been tested in Ohio and five have tested positive for the virus, none in northwest Ohio. There have been only two human cases in the United States so far this year.

Last year, Ohio tested 5,152 birds, 1,002 of which were positive. Virus activity was widespread in Ohio and Michigan last year, with Ohio ranking third overall in the country in human cases (441 cases and 31 deaths), and Michigan ranking second (614 cases, 51 deaths).

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