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West Nile virus shows its return with two dead birds in Modesto

Health officials said Thursday that West Nile virus has surfaced in Stanislaus County, with the discovery of two infected dead birds in Modesto.

The pair of crows were picked up May 29 in northwest Modesto in the 95350 ZIP code, said Lloyd Douglas, general manager of the East Side Mosquito Abatement District. One bird tested positive at a state lab, and district testing confirmed the presence of the virus in the second bird, he said.

East Side personnel trapped some mosquitoes in the vicinity for testing, but none was positive for West Nile. It's possible that the birds were infected elsewhere, then flew to that area of Modesto, he said.

"There are a lot of crows that roost in that area," Douglas said. "The birds move around, so it doesn't mean there are positive mosquitoes there."

The virus, which resulted in the deaths of at least 21 people in California last year, surfaced in the county seven to 10 days earlier than last year, possibly brought on by the 100-degree weather in May, officials said.

The San Joaquin County Mosquito & Vector Control District reported an infected dead bird near the Tracy area last week and reported three more from the same area this week. To assist with tracking and controlling the virus, officials are urging the public to report dead birds (crows, magpies, jays or raptors) and mosquito-breeding problems.

The East Side district, which covers the northern half of Stanislaus County, is concentrating its control efforts on known mosquito breeding sites. It has treated about 230 stagnant swimming pools in Modesto and other cities and identified more than 100 other pools that are breeding mosquitoes in neighborhoods.

"It is where the battle is now," Douglas said. "We need the public's help if we are going to get a handle on this."

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.

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