Bring out your dead…birds.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control needs help collecting dead sparrows, crows, blue jays, and house finches.
These bird species frequently carry West Nile virus in their blood and can spread the disease. Mosquito contract the virus from feeding on birds and eventually pass that virus on to humans.
Only eight cases of West Nile Virus were detected in humans last year, but Robert Yannity with DHEC says tracking birds with the virus could help prevent that number from growing.
“You kind of see if there are pockets of where we are seeing West Nile virus,” said Yannity. “and if we do see that that helps us alert the local authorities where mosquito spraying may need to be done.”
The health department understands that picking up dead birds and putting them in bags sounds disgusting but to DHEC spokesman Robert Yannity, it’s also science. “It’s a little of both, we do understand that handling dead birds is not something people look forward to everyday.”
The agency even joked in a tweet that such action could be similar to the infamous “Bring Out Your Dead” scene from the 1975 British film “Monty Python and The Holy Grail.”
Humans rarely show symptoms of West Nile virus, but the same is not true of birds. Signs of West Nile virus in birds are weakness, sluggishness, inability to walk or perch and a lack of fear of humans. If you see a bird with some of these symptoms in birds call your local DNR or DHEC office.
DHEC did ask the public to use gloves when handing dead birds and ensure the bird is inside a plastic bag before sending it to a drop-off location. Yannity said it is perfectly acceptable to treat the dead birds like you would any poultry and store it in a refrigerator or freezer, if you cannot reach a dead bird drop off location within 24-36 hours.