Residents asked to help DHEC track West Nile Virus

COLUMBIA — Residents can help the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) track West Nile virus this spring and summer by submitting certain species of dead birds for lab testing.

DHEC’s dead bird surveillance program helps the agency identify where and when there is an increase in West Nile virus (WNV) activity, as a high rate of birds infected with the disease indicates an overall increase of the virus in a certain area. DHEC notifies local officials if there is indication of increased WNV activity within their community so they can take appropriate actions to reduce the risk of WNV infections in both people and animals.

“The public’s involvement with our dead bird surveillance program bolsters the agency’s surveillance efforts and can help identify West Nile virus before it begins affecting people,” said Dr. Chris Evans, State Public Health Entomologist. “This is a unique opportunity for the public to proactively assist their public health agency in staying ahead of a potential health risk.”

West Nile virus is an infectious disease caused by microscopic germs (called a virus) that can make you sick. Mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus can give it to people or animals, such as horses, when they bite the skin.

In most people, West Nile virus causes minor or no symptoms. In rare instances, West Nile virus can cause a dangerous neurological infection (an infection in your nerves and brain). A neurological infection can pose a serious threat to your health.

Deceased birds can be reported or submitted to DHEC at local Health or Environmental Affairs offices now through Nov. 30. To safely collect a dead bird, residents should:

Do Not touch a bird, dead or alive, with bare hands. Use gloves or pick up the bird with doubled, plastic bags.

Keep the bagged bird cool until it can be placed on ice or in a refrigerator. If unable to deliver the bird carcass to DHEC within 36 hours of collection, freeze it until until it can be delivered.

Download and complete a Dead Bird Submission and Reporting Sheet for West Nile Virus and take the sheet and dead bird to a local DHEC Health or Environmental Affairs office during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday). See DHEC’s interactive map of available offices for drop-off; WIC-only public health departments can’t accept birds.

For more information, including locating a local DHEC office for submitting deceased birds, visit or contact the Vector-Borne Diseases Laboratory at 803-896-3802 or [email protected].

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]