West Nile surveillance efforts begin

Omaha, NE – The Douglas County Health Department has begun its West Nile Virus surveillance.

Reid Steinkraus of the Health Department says dead bird collection began Monday. The birds are tested for West Nile, which is spread by bites from infected mosquitoes. Testing will happen until three dead birds test positive for the virus.

Steinkraus says young children and people over 50 are the most at risk for contracting West Nile. The virus causes flu-like symptoms in some people who are infected. In rare cases, people can contract encephalitis. Steinkraus says those people experience severe headaches.

There are ways to protect yourself from West Nile. Steinkraus says if you're going to be outside during the peak mosquito times of dawn and dusk, wear long pants, a long sleeve shirt and socks. Wear a mosquito repellent with DEET and empty any standing pools of water on your property.

Douglas County had 11 cases of West Nile Virus last year. The number of cases has fluctuated widely in the past few years, with 69 cases in 2003 and only two cases in 2004.