Two Birds Test Positive for West Nile Virus in San Mateo County

San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District confirmed infection in birds found in Woodside.

Two birds tested positive for West Nile Virus in Atherton this week, according to Teresa Shelton, a vector ecologist for the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District.

“Both of them have chronic level of West Nile virus,” Shelton said. “That’s a low level. It means that they were probably infected last year, so we don’t think there’s an immediate disease risk. But, we are setting traps for mosquitoes to test them.”

An Atherton resident found a dead sparrow in her yard on Selby Lane a few days ago, with no visible signs of trauma. She called the county’s mosquito control district to report it.

“They asked me to put it in a zip lock bag and put it under my mailbox,” she said.

This is the fifth animal reported to have West Nile Virus this year, according to Shelton. This total also includes the earlier this season, as well as the crow that was found up the road on Selby Lane last week.  The California Department of Public Health’s West Nile Virus website reports 81 new cases of infected birds in the last week alone.  Statewide, 648 dead birds tested positive in 2012.

Shelton said that only one of the birds found in San Mateo County tested a “regular” positive, which means that the animal likely caught the disease this summer.

“The rest were chronic positive, which means they probably caught it last year. They didn’t die from it, so they’re still carrying low levels of virus in them,” Shelton added, noting that the risk of transmission was low. It is possible.

Shelton will be setting mosquito traps in the 94207 zip code to capture specimens and test them for the disease. The vector control district does not make the locations of these test sites public. However, Shelton said she would be placing the traps in trees, thick vegetation, and any other areas with standing water that could be mosquito breeding grounds.

Atherton and Menlo Park residents are encouraged to report dead animals without any signs of trauma to the county by calling 1-877-968-2473.

Shelton said, ”Remember to wear gloves.”


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