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Bird With West Nile Found in Riverside

Tests on the sparrow confirm the rapid spread of the virus in the Southland. The city steps up its campaign to spray for mosquitoes.

September 25, 2003|Janet Wilson | Times Staff Writer

The fast-moving West Nile virus continues to spread across Southern California, according to state health officials. A sparrow found dead in Riverside this month was infected with the virus, said Vicki Kramer, chief of the vector-borne disease section at the Dept. of Health Services.

Health officials are aggressively monitoring and testing birds as part of the effort to combat the disease.

A resident called the state's West Nile virus dead-bird hotline at 12:26 p.m. on Sept. 8 to report a dead sparrow in his frontyard. Four minutes later, state officials notified city officials that it could have died from the virus and needed to be tested, said Riverside spokeswoman Sharon Cooley. Sparrows are one of the species that can be killed by the virus.

Within the hour, a public works employee had retrieved the bird from the home on Warren Street near Wells Avenue, and whisked it to San Bernardino for testing at a state Health and Food Safety Lab. On Monday, state officials announced the results of testing there and at a UC Davis lab.

Birds, like humans, can be infected when they are bitten by mosquitoes carrying the disease.

Riverside has stepped up spraying for mosquitoes since Monday, said Colley, and is alerting parks and street personnel to keep an eye out for dead birds and areas of potential mosquito breeding.

State officials urged anyone who sees a dead bird that may have been infected to call the hotline at 877-WNV-BIRD (877-968-2473). Touching the bird is not recommended. If it is necessary to move a bird, officials recommend wearing plastic gloves, and using a plastic bag or shovel.

Kramer said the find in western Riverside County was not surprising because the area lies between the Salton Sea, near where the virus was first detected in California a month ago, and Arcadia in Los Angeles County, where a dead crow tested positive two weeks ago.

The disease was first detected in dead crows in New York City in 1999.

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