West Nile surveillance starts

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Health Department has started its annual statewide surveillance for West Nile virus.

The department said Tuesday the program for 2009 again includes testing of dead birds to see if they had the disease, which can be transmitted to humans through mosquitoes.

The department will test crows, blue jays, robins, hawks, and owls, which are major carriers of the virus. The agency wants residents to bring freshly dead birds for testing, but not birds that are decomposing or have ants or maggots. The department says to use gloves and keep the birds cool.

In 2008, there were 9 confirmed cases of West Nile in humans and no deaths.

The department has an automated phone line for inquiries, 1-877-296-9555.

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