Suffolk County now has a West Nile virus hotline in efforts to prevent the spread of the virus in the county.
Residents are encouraged to use the hotline to report sightings of dead birds that may have been infected with the virus. West Nile virus infects birds, such as crows, blue jays and hawks, and is spread to humans by mosquitoes that first feed on such birds.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the Department of Health Services’ public health hotline is a way for county residents to aid their communities.
“The West Nile hotline is a perfect example of how residents can assist local officials in ensuring the health and safety of our community,” he said.
The hotline is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 631-787-2200 and will remain active until Labor Day.
After a resident reports the dead bird sighting, those specimens that meet the Department of Health Services’ criteria will be picked up between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. from Monday through Friday. The birds are then tested for the virus.
If a reported bird is not deemed necessary for testing, health officials advise residents still take precautionary action to dispose of the animal using a doubled bag, gloves and a shovel. Humans cannot catch the West Nile virus directly from birds.
Dr. James Tomarken, the commissioner of health services, said it is important for residents to cooperate with the county in efforts to prevent the virus, even if they do not experience symptoms themselves.
“The symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent,” he said.
Symptoms of the West Nile virus include high fever, headaches, stiffness and disorientation. More serious cases may result in coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss or even paralysis.
In addition to utilizing the hotline, the county advises residents to take personal precautions against mosquitoes that may carry the virus. The advice includes minimizing outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, wearing mosquito repellent and making sure windows and doors have screens.