Newsroom > DHHS News Release

June 1, 2009

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or

Sound bites from Dr. Annette Bredthauer, the state’s Public Health Veterinarian, are available at


Dead Bird Collection and Mosquito Trapping Begin;
Public Should Take Precautions Against Mosquitoes

Lincoln — The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is now accepting dead birds for testing for West Nile virus. Mosquito trapping for additional surveillance has also begun.

"Finding the virus in birds and mosquitoes gives public health officials an indication of the level of the virus in the area and the risk to human beings of contracting the disease," said Annette Bredthauer, state public health veterinarian.

This year the department is accepting all species of birds for testing.

“Because the types of birds that we previously tested have had their numbers decimated by the West Nile virus, we have to expand our surveillance to other birds,” Dr. Bredthauer said. “In previous years, blue jays, crows, hawks and owls were the only ones accepted for testing, but their numbers are down considerably.”

People who find dead birds should contact their local health department. (A list of local health departments can be found at Testing can only be conducted on birds that are in good condition, with no evidence of maggots or rotting.

Last year, 67 birds in the state were tested and 17 found to be positive for the virus. Of the 1,592 mosquito pools collected, 81 were positive.

Mosquito trapping will take place in 24 counties in Nebraska. The pools of mosquitoes are tested for the virus.

There were 45 human cases of the disease reported last year. This compares to 163 in 2007, 264 in 2006, 188 in 2005, 57 in 2004, 2,366 in 2003 and 174 in 2002. There were no cases prior to 2002, the year the disease found its way to Nebraska from the East Coast.

West Nile is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. In turn, the mosquito can pass the virus to humans.

West Nile fever includes flu-like symptoms such as fever and muscle weakness. Symptoms of West Nile encephalitis include inflammation of the brain, disorientation, convulsions and paralysis. People over 50 and those with weak immune systems are especially vulnerable to the disease.

Insect repellents can save lives, according to the state’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joann Schaefer.

“We need to do the things that can prevent mosquito bites, like wearing insect repellant and long-sleeved shirts and pants at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active,” she said.

People can "fight the bite" to reduce their risk by:

    • Using a repellant that contains DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus;
    • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, shoes and socks;
    • Taking extra precautions when going outdoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active; and
    • Removing standing water where mosquitoes breed.

For more information, visit the HHS Web site at