County begins bird collecting, testing for West Nile virus

The Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) is advising residents that the West Nile virus (WNV) season is approaching. As in previous years, the OCHD will continue surveillance efforts into next fall to ensure the safety and protection of residents.

Testing of birds will be done to the entire corvid family; the most common corvids in New Jersey are crows and blue jays, said Leslie Terjesen, OCHD public information officer.

“County residents can help the health department control West Nile virus by reporting dead crows or blue jays that they find on their property by calling 732-341- 9700, ext. 7502, or toll free at 800-342- 9738, ext. 7502,” said Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health. “The location of all dead crows or blue jays is recorded and can be accessed and addressed by the Ocean County Mosquito Commission.”

Terjesen said, “Dead crows and blue jays will be picked up by staff from the OCHD. If residents choose to bring a dead bird to our headquarters or remove it to another area, please use gloves when handling dead birds or any wildlife.”

Terjesen added that uncollected birds are not considered to be a health hazard and can be disposed of as regular trash.

According to Ocean County Health Department Epidemiologist Patricia High, “Most human WNV infections produce no symptoms, or mild or moderate symptoms that include fever, headache and body aches. These symptoms often are accompanied by skin rash and swollen lymph glands, but can produce more dangerous conditions among the young or elderly and those persons with chronic diseases or compromised immune systems.”

According to a press release, West Nile virus is mainly transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito; therefore, ongoing elimination of mosquito breeding is the key to prevention of West Nile virus transmission.