Friday, September 13, 2002

A letter to the editor of the Huntsville Times

Submitted, of course, by yours truly.

A week ago, I found a grackle in my back yard. Dead.

Given the recent news about local birds testing positive for West Nile virus, I called the Madison County Health Department to ask what I should do. I was informed that I should put on gloves, pick it up and toss it in the trash.

Thinking this solution would hardly help them ascertain the cause of death, I questioned their answer. I was told, in effect, that "if it's not a crow, we're not interested." Specifically, MCHD does not have the time or manpower to deal with grackles.

Or apparently sparrows, bluejays, rose-breasted grosbeaks, or doves--all of which I found dead in my backyard over successive days.

Now, I didn't have any personal connection with any of these birds; I hadn't named any of them, they weren't
pets, but I had certainly encouraged them in the spring with enough birdfeeders to drop by my backyard, but not to drop dead there. I thought this deserved a better explanation, and since the birds weren't talking, I called the city agency I thought could give me an answer.

So I was agitated when Thursday night's newscast reported West Nile virus being discovered in 3 Madison
County birds. One of which was a bluejay collected by the MCHD from a woman's backyard elsewhere in
Huntsville. Now, it might make me sound a bit envious but: What exactly was wrong with MY dead bluejay?

How come I've got 5 dead birds in 5 days and 5 times I was told to eat crow, while other people in Madison County are being fed a different answer?

I don't know why my jaded response from the MCHD was so blase, but I've got to assume that one dead bluejay is as good as the next, and if one has the virus, that population will be considered affected. Maybe they're still looking for that first crow. Again, I don't know, but that's my guess.

I would encourage the MCHD to get their ducks in a row and be a little more informative and responsive to
the public's concern over this recent threat.

Or perhaps they already have enough ducks?

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