COLUMBIA, S.C. - The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is seeking the public's help in tracking the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.
DHEC monitors mosquito-borne disease activity in mosquitoes, humans, birds, horses and other related animals to provide early detection and determine the need for local mosquito-control response and public education. As part of this ongoing effort, DHEC tracks West Nile virus in birds, West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus in horses and other related animals like donkeys, and a wide variety of viruses in mosquitoes and humans, including West Nile virus, EEE virus, La Crosse encephalitis virus, Saint Louis encephalitis, Zika virus, bunyaviruses and others.
"Our Mosquito-Borne Disease Surveillance Program plays a key role in helping alert us to potential mosquito-borne illness activity across the state," said Chris Evans, a Ph.D. entomologist with the DHEC Bureau of Laboratories. "Anyone can help us identify and track West Nile virus by submitting dead blue jays, crows, house sparrows, and house finches for testing."
To determine if a virus is present, a test is used to detect genetic material of the virus in the brains of dead birds. In 2015, DHEC tested 31 dead birds from 16 counties, and detected West Nile virus in two birds.
"Mosquitoes feed on the blood of birds carrying West Nile virus and can subsequently spread the disease to people," said Evans. "The public's involvement with dead bird surveillance covers a wide area and helps us to identify West Nile virus before it shows up in people."
Birds that test positive for West Nile virus are reported to local mosquito control agencies so they can take appropriate action to help safeguard the health of local residents.
DHEC is currently accepting submission of birds through Nov. 30, 2016. Instructions on how to safely pick up and transport a bird to the closest DHEC local county health department or Environmental Quality Control office is available online at scdhec.gov/birdtesting.