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Dead bird found in Lexington tests positive for West Nile

Ian B. Murphy

A dead blue jay found on Carriage Drive in Lexington has tested positive for West Nile virus.

Gerard Cody, Lexington’s heath director, said the town’s health department is looking for more dead birds, and encourages residents to call the department if they find any. Blue jays and crows are especially susceptible to the disease.

He also said there was no need to panic; no one in Massachusetts has been infected with West Nile this summer.

The bird was found Thursday by a resident and reported to the town’s health department. They inspected the bird and sent it to the state’s Department of Public Heath testing facility in Jamaica Plain.

“Our job at the local level is to go out and evaluate the bird, and see if it’s a specimen worth testing,” Cody said.

West Nile virus is a mosquito-born virus that can cause mild sickness like a fever, or in rare cases a more serious disease like encephalitis or meningitis. People over the age of 50 have a higher risk for severe infection. Less than 1 percent of people infected with West Nile virus contract serious diseases, according to a statement from the state’s Department of Public Health.

Cody said Lexington submitted two birds last summer, and neither came up positive for West Nile. Last year, there were 3,059 birds tested statewide, and 43 came up positive.

This year, heavy rainfall has boosted the mosquito population across the state.

“We’re finding that state-wide, [mosquito numbers are] abnormally high,” Cody said.

Cody instructed residents to call the town’s health department at 781-862-0500, Ext. 200, or the Department of Public Health at 866-267-7968 to report dead birds in their area.