A dead crow found near Grovetown last month came back positive Wednesday for West Nile virus, Columbia County Health Department reported.
It is the first bird to test positive for the mosquito-borne virus in the area, although officials assumed West Nile was already circulating locally. Columbia County had just suspended its bird testing program after sending off 30 without a positive result, said Andrea Frazier, an environmental health specialist.
"We were kind of surprised that we hadn't had a positive (result) earlier," she said.
The bird was found July 31 near Grovetown and was shipped that day to the state laboratory, but the results did not come back until Wednesday, she said. The county still plans to concentrate on mosquito trapping and testing.
Georgia had 45 birds test positive for West Nile as of July 31, said medical entomologist Rosmarie Kelly. Because the virus has been in Georgia for only three years, it is hard to say whether there should have been more cases by now, she said.
Heavy thunderstorms might be keeping down the mosquito population believed to spread the virus in urban and suburban areas - the Southern house mosquito, which likes to breed in stagnant water in containers such as potted plants, Dr. Kelly said.
"When you have these heavy rains, they not only flush out containers and wash the mosquito larvae out of them, but they also dilute the water so these female mosquitoes aren't as attracted to these containers," Dr. Kelly said.
That also means there is a lot of water around and the situation could change when the rains stop, she said.
"I suspect that we probably will see a gradual increase if these heavy rains stop. We may see a sudden increase," Dr. Kelly said. "We're certainly already having a problem with eastern equine encephalitis, and that's likely to continue."
Two people in Georgia have contracted eastern equine encephalitis, including 10-year-old Jennifer Tucker, who is in serious condition at the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center.
Dr. Kelly urged increased vigilance for standing water around the house.
"And they really need to be wearing repellent," she said.
To prevent mosquito bites, health officials recommend:
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.