State of Hawaii

Bird tests show no
West Nile virus in isles

Health officials still are asking residents
to collect dead birds and turn them in

By Diana Leone

The state Health Department has announced that its first round of testing dead wild birds for West Nile Virus found no traces of the disease.

The department learned Tuesday that a Minnesota man who visited Hawaii in September and had been tested for West Nile virus did have the disease during his visit here, Health Director Bruce Anderson said Wednesday.

However, the man, who is from the St. Paul area, was experiencing West Nile virus symptoms before arriving in Hawaii and is presumed to have acquired the disease there, where there have been confirmed cases of the disease, Anderson said.

"We've alerted all physicians to be on the lookout for cases," Anderson said, and so far seven samples from patients in Hawaii with West Nile virus-like symptoms have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. "The other six were ruled negative," he said.

The same technology that allows the department to test birds for the presence of West Nile virus will allow quick turnaround of testing of human blood samples, Anderson said.

"Even if a mosquito bit a person (with West Nile virus), it can't pass it on," because the levels of the virus in humans is too low to transfer, Anderson said.

In humans the virus causes flulike symptoms in about 20 percent of people infected with it. Less than 1 percent of people infected with the virus get a severe and sometimes fatal illness called West Nile encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain), the Health Department said.

On the mainland during 2002, there have been more than 3,600 reported cases of West Nile virus and nearly 200 deaths.

The Health Department will continue testing dead wild birds periodically. West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that have bitten infected birds, although there are recorded cases of transfer by transfusion.

Hawaii hopes to avoid the disease because none of its migratory birds fly from areas that have experienced it. The state has imposed emergency restrictions on the importation of birds and continues mosquito eradication efforts.

People who find freshly dead house sparrows, finches, bulbuls, mynahs, cardinals, owls or hawks are encouraged to bring them in plastic bags to the nearest Humane Society on each island, or to the Division of Forestry and Wildlife offices in Hilo, Kamuela and Kahului. The birds will be transferred to the Health Department for testing.

For more information about West Nile virus and Hawaii's efforts to combat it, see or call 586-4400.

Hawaii Department of Health

E-mail to City Desk


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