Dead birds being accepted for West Nile virus surveillance, testing

Note to readers: The following information was released Friday by the Bureau, Putnam and Marshall County Health Departments.

Collecting and testing dead birds is an important component of the West Nile virus (WNV) surveillance program. West Nile virus generally appears in birds and mosquitoes before it is transmitted to humans; therefore, monitoring bird populations helps to predict when and where humans will be at higher risk for West Nile virus infections.

Your local health departments are now accepting dead birds for testing of WNV. The public is encouraged to help locate birds that may have died from the disease. Sick birds or birds that have been dead less than 12 hours may be eligible for testing. To qualify for testing, birds must meet these guidelines:

Birds must be dead less than 12 hours (fresh) and the carcass must not have obvious signs of trauma (struck by a vehicle, window or animal attack), decay or strong odor. Birds dying from WNV are usually found singly, scattered over a wide area. In contrast, birds that die from other causes (storm mortality, food poisoning, toxicants) often die in groups or clusters.

Eligible birds include: Crows, blue jays, house finches, house sparrows, robins; Perching birds such as blackbirds, bluebirds, catbirds, cardinals, goldfinches, finches, swallows, wrens; hawks and owls.

Ineligible birds include: Waterfowl, gulls, vultures, turkeys, chickens or eagles.

Only adults should handle dead birds. Pick the bird up with gloves, tongs or a shovel. If you do not have gloves, insert your hand into a plastic bag like it is a glove, grasp the bird carefully and invert the bag over the bird. Each bird should be double-bagged in clear plastic bags.

The Bureau, Putnam and Marshall County Health Departments urge the public to take precautions to protect you and your family from mosquito bites. Outbreaks of West Nile virus (WNV) occur each summer in the United States, warmer temperatures mean more mosquitoes. Take these common precautions to minimize mosquito bites this summer:

• Avoid being outdoors at dusk/night and early morning, when winds are light and mosquitoes are active.

• When outdoors during these times, wear light-colored clothing and apply insect repellent.

• Ensure that doors and windows have tight, properly fitting screens.

• Eliminate all sources of standing water that support mosquito breeding (i.e. bird baths, wading pools, and flowerpots, tires, cans, buckets, clogged gutters, abandoned swimming pools, etc.) on your property. This is especially important because large numbers of mosquitoes that carry WNV can emerge from even one shallow container of stagnant water.

• For additional information regarding WNV or to submit a bird for testing, call Bureau, Putnam or Marshall County Health Department at 815-872-5091, or at 309-246-8074, to determine if the bird is eligible before you touch or handle it.

Where can I go for more information?

Below is a list of helpful links regarding West Nile virus and “eligible” bird species.

1. IDPH West Nile Virus Web Page:

2. CDC West Nile Virus Web Page:

3. CDC/ArboNET Disease Maps for WNV:

4. Bird Identification Website:

5. You can also find more information at the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) WNV Hotline at 866-369-9710 or go to the IDPH WNV website: