EVERETT – The Snohomish Health District has decided it will send employees out to pick up suspicious dead birds if the public cannot bring them to the downtown Everett head quarters.
The dead birds help the health district track possible West Nile virus infections, which could be found in dead crows, jays, hawks and ravens.
Last year, budget cuts forced the health district to cut money from its West Nile virus monitoring program. That meant it would no longer pick up dead birds to test for the virus. Those brought in by the public were still tested.
The countywide public health agency announced the change on Tuesday.
“We want more birds in for testing,” said Mike Young, a senior environmental health specialist.
“If they’re in a pinch and can’t come in, they can call and we’ll see if we can arrange to pick it up.”
Even so, not every dead bird reported to the agency will be picked up, he said.
So far, eight birds from Snohomish County have been tested for the virus. There have been no reports that any of them tested positive, Young said.
Last month, Pat Dama spotted a dead crow near his home in Everett. He said his job and medical appointments kept him from taking the crow within 48 hours to the health agency for West Nile virus testing.
When the health district refused to pick up the bird, Dave Gossett, a Snohomish County Council member and one of 15 public officials on the health district board, volunteered to go get it and take it to the health district.
Told of the health district’s decision on Tuesday, Dama was elated. “Chalk one up for the little guy,” he said. “That is great.”
People are still asked to double-bag dead birds and keep them either on ice or in the freezer, Young said.
If a pickup can’t be made, dead birds should be double- bagged before they are disposed of, he said.
Last year, 60 birds in Snohomish County were sent off for testing. None had the virus.
Washington is the only state in the lower 48 not to have someone contract the virus within its borders, according to the state Department of Health.
Elsewhere, the virus is widespread. Some 3,000 people were infected last year and 119 died from the virus nationwide, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reporter Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Report dead birds
If you spot a dead raven, crow, jay or hawk, follow these steps:
* Note the location, nearby street address or closest intersection.
* Report only birds that have no obvious injury, and appear to have died recently (within 48 hours).
* Call the Snohomish Health District’s West Nile virus information line at 425-339-8720 and press 3.