West Nile Virus In Birds


What is West Nile virus?

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).

How do mosquitoes get and spread West Nile virus?
Mosquitoes become infected with West Nile virus by biting birds that carry the virus. Humans can then become infected with the virus when they are bitten by an infected mosquito.

Where was the first outbreak of West Nile virus in the US?
The first confirmed cases appeared in the New York City metropolitan area during the fall of 1999 when 62 people, including 46 residents of New York City, became ill. Seven people died of West Nile virus-related infections during this initial outbreak.

What measures are now being taken to protect the public from West Nile virus?
The New York State Department of Health, working with counties, New York City, other state and federal agencies, universities, and private organizations, has developed a comprehensive plan to reduce the risk of West Nile virus. The plan includes testing people, mosquitoes, dead birds, designated healthy chicken flocks, rabies-negative dead animals and ill animals for the virus during the mosquito season (spring to fall).

What should I do if I see a dead bird?
Contact your local health department and report it. Health department staff will advise you if the bird should be submitted for testing.

What information do I need to give my local health department?
Officials will need to know the specific location of the bird, including town, street, nearest cross street and the date found. You will be asked to leave your name and phone number in case local health officials have further questions.

What should I do with the dead bird until it is picked up for testing?
Most local health departments follow a set procedure for picking up dead birds that require testing. If the bird cannot be reported or picked-up right away, use a shovel or wear gloves to place it in a refrigerator or ice chest that is not used for food. If that's not possible, place plastic bags of ice over the dead bird and cover it with a bucket until health officials arrive.

What should I do if I'm told the dead bird does not require testing?
If testing is not required, use a shovel or wear gloves to double-bag the dead bird and dispose of it in the trash, or bury it at least three feet deep, away from a stream or other water source.

Do I risk exposure to West Nile virus by handling a dead bird?
There is no evidence that West Nile virus is spread directly from dead birds to humans. However, bare-handed contact with dead animals should always be avoided. Use a shovel or wear gloves when handling a carcass.

How long does it take to test a dead bird for West Nile virus?
The New York State Health Department tests birds according to geographical priority, not date received, therefore, it is not possible to provide timeframes.

When will I receive the test results of the bird (s) that I submitted for testing?
While test results will not be provided to individual reporters, the efforts to report dead birds for testing are a very important part of West Nile virus surveillance in your area.

How will test results be used?
Test results will be used to monitor the occurrence of West Nile virus in towns and cities, and to make decisions regarding appropriate control measures.

Where in New York have infected birds been reported?
Since 1999, birds testing positive for the virus have been confirmed in Rockland, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as New York City.

How many birds have become infected with West Nile virus?
In 1999, 292 dead birds, from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and one bird from Maryland were confirmed as carrying the virus. The majority of birds were confirmed in New York State.

What species of birds have become infected with West Nile virus?
Investigators have diagnosed West Nile virus in 18 native bird species in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland. The majority of infected dead birds (over 88 percent) were American crows.

If I see a lot of crows roosting in an area, should I be concerned about West Nile virus?
No. Seeing crows alive and well is a good indication that the virus is not in your area. Dead crows, however, may indicate the presence of the virus and should be reported to your local health department.

Are pet birds or poultry at risk for West Nile virus?
To date, there is little evidence that pet birds or poultry have become ill from the virus, although infections without symptoms are possible.

Can a dead bird pose a risk to my pet?
To date, there is no indication that a pet having any type of contact with a dead bird, including eating it, will develop West Nile virus.