Dead bird surveillance for West Nile begins in La Salle County

As a measure to track the West Nile virus, the La Salle County Health Department has started collecting dead birds and will continue this process until Oct. 15.

Dead birds are important sentinels for early detection of West Nile virus activity, said health department officials. West Nile virus generally appears in birds and mosquitoes before it is transmitted to humans.

Over the past 18 years, West Nile virus activity has been documented throughout La Salle County. In 2019, La Salle County had no human cases of West Nile. In 2018 and 2017, La Salle County had one human case of West Nile each year.

The health department encourages people spending time outdoors to wear an EPA-registered insect repellent to help prevent mosquito bites.

If you find a dead bird, contact the La Salle County Health Department’s Environmental Health Division at 815-433-3366. Listed below is the criteria health officials use to determine if a bird is eligible to submit for testing:

• The bird is dead, but the carcass is in good condition.

• Birds should be dead no more than about 48 hours prior to collection, and should not show signs of advanced decomposition (maggots, strong odor, dried or deflated eyes).

• The bird shows no sign it died of causes other than disease. Birds with obvious injuries, such as wounds or missing parts should not be submitted for testing. Likewise, crushed carcasses and birds found along roadways are not acceptable.

• The bird must be one that is acceptable for testing. At this time the Health Department is only collecting crows, blue jays and robins. To help identify the type of bird, go to for bird identification information.

As in past years, health department staff is getting ready to begin testing mosquitoes for West Nile virus. The mosquito collection and testing equipment was purchased with grant money. The agency also utilized the grant money to purchase a large quantity of mosquito larvicide, which is used to treat potential mosquito breeding sites. The larvicide is being distributed to licensed mosquito control applicators from local municipalities and villages throughout the county.

For additional information on West Nile virus, contact the La Salle County Health Department at 815-433-3366 or go to