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Fewer Birds May Explain Fewer West Nile Cases

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) J.D. Miles
J.D. is an award-winning reporter who has been covering North T...
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Cities across North Texas are seeing an increase in mosquitoes, and with that, comes the fear more people will start catching the West Nile Virus.

Yet, scientists say a lower bird population may explain why there haven’t been more human cases of the virus.

While that may be bad news for bird watchers, some environmental health experts say it could prevent another bad outbreak this summer of the disease.

“People aren’t seeing birds that they may have seen in the winter,” said Haily Summerford from the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center.

Vacant bird houses in East Dallas and full feeders have some asking, “Where are the birds?”

“Really there’s no way to know if there’s a huge change in bird population because birds are very mobile,” said Summerford.

Since birds are carriers of the West Nile Virus and transfer it to mosquitoes, some environmental health experts hope fewer bird sightings will mean fewer human cases of the disease. Last year, there were 259 cases. So far this year, only two cases have been reported.

Bird experts say migration patterns and weather can change every year. Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center in Cedar Hill has more than 90 species of birds on 200 acres. They say large groups of similar birds are more likely to carry West Nile.

“There are scientific studies that state where you have an area where you have a diverse bird population, the lower the number of West Nile cases,” said Summerford.

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