WASHINGTON – Maryland officials confirmed Thursday that six more crows in Baltimore City were killed by the West Nile virus, bringing the total number of infected birds found in Maryland to nine this year.
The nine birds discovered since last week compare to just one infected bird found in the state last year. All 10 birds have been found in the Baltimore area.
New Jersey and New York health officials have each reported hundreds of cases of crows killed by the disease this year, said J.B. Hanson, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. But he could not say if the Baltimore birds had migrated from that area.
“We have no way of knowing where they’re from, it’s migratory season,” Hanson said. “It’s one of those frustrating things.”
The most-recent birds were delivered to the lab on Monday and their infection with the West Nile virus was confirmed Thursday.
After the discovery of the first birds in the area last week, state officials began a spraying campaign aimed at killing the mosquitoes that spread the virus between birds and humans.
“State, local and federal agencies are continuing their collaborative efforts to monitor the situation carefully to ensure the public’s health and safety,” Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, secretary of state health department, said in a prepared statement.
“The public can help in our efforts by eliminating standing water found around the yard in everything from flower pots and tires to birdbaths and by reporting any dying birds. . .to the Department of Natural Resources’ toll-free hotline at 1-888-584-3110,” Benjamin said.
Operators at the hotline reported receiving “a number of calls” Thursday afternoon.
Officials have also said that people should wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants and a hat when outside, use mosquito repellents and avoid outdoor activities at dawn and dusk, peak times for mosquitoes.
Maryland health officials began stepped-up monitoring last week of dead birds found in the area, as birds began their annual migration south.
Officials had tested hundreds of birds already by last week, said Dr. Jeff Roche of the state health department. Roche said at the time that not all crows migrate, so it’s hard to say if the crows were infected here or elsewhere.
Maryland officials have also been looking all summer for a mosquito infected with the West Nile virus, but they had not discovered any as of last week.
Monitoring efforts will continue through November, said Roche. The first good, hard frost should kill the adult mosquitoes for this season.
Officials have said the insecticide they are spraying as a precaution against virus-carrying mosquitoes is not harmful to people or pets, but they recommended anyone uncomfortable with the spraying should remain indoors or leave the area while treatment occurs.
People infected with the West Nile virus may have symptoms similar to encephalitis, including fever, stiff neck, disorientation and paralysis. People should contact their doctor immediately if they develop any West Nile virus symptoms.