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FOR RELEASE: September 18, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

West Nile Virus Hotline Update

State health officials report more than 300 calls have been placed to the statewide West Nile Virus hotline since August 10 when the hotline was announced.

The hotline was established as part of a new state surveillance and testing program called “On Watch” to track the spread of West Nile Virus (WNV). An important part of the surveillance program is finding and reporting those dead birds that are likely to become sick with WNV, including crows, blue jays, and raptors (hawks, owls, eagles) and to submit these freshly dead birds for testing.

Thus far, the “On Watch” program has tested 60 birds for WNV, including 12 crows and 48 other types of birds. All birds tested negative for WNV. The birds tested for WNV came from 15 counties. More than half were from Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, with the remainder from Cleveland, Comanche, Garfield, Hughes, Lincoln, Logan, Major, Payne, Roger Mills, Seminole, Sequoyah, Wagoner, and Woodward counties.

In addition to the birds tested, 14 horses, eight mosquito pools and three humans have been tested for WNV and all were negative.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WNV is expanding its range in a southern and western direction from the northeast United States. The virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes to birds, horses, and sometimes, humans.

Dead birds, especially crows and blue jays, are the most visible indicators that the virus is in the state. Horses are also prone to WNV infection.

To report sick or dead crows, blue jays and raptors (hawks, owls and eagles), call the “On Watch” statewide toll-free hotline at 1-800-990-CROW (2769). Tulsa County residents should call 918/595-4200. Calls are answered by the Animal Industry Services staff at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. If the reported birds meet the criteria for testing, callers will receive instructions on how and where to take the bird specimens.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has also set up this Web site so the public can track WNV surveillance efforts in Oklahoma: www.health.state.ok.us/program/cdd/ow/index.html.

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