The West Nile Virus (WNV) is a disease transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquitoes. Outbreaks appear to coincide with rainy seasons and the proliferation of mosquitoes.
Since it was first diagnosed in 1999 in New York City, the West Nile Virus has spread throughout most of the United States and into Canada and Mexico.
Symptoms: In birds, the virus can cause acute death, clinical signs involving the nervous system (seizures, uncoordination, weight loss, diarrhea, intention tremors, difficulty walking or enteritis), or the infection may be unapparent. Infected birds can die or recover spontaneously (with or without supportive care). Different strains of the virus show differing degrees of pathogenicity, meaning that some strains are very dangerous and much more likely to cause clinical illness and other strains cause signs much less severe.
There is no specific treatment for West Nile Virus infections, as it is a viral disease. Supportive care should be provided.
Several tests are available to help determine if a bird is suffering from this virus. A vaccine has been approved for use in horses and some nvestigational trials using the vaccine in birds have been published. Unfortunately, it appears that the vaccine, when administered to birds, does not induce much of a reaction of protective antibodies in many cases. Discuss the possibility of vaccination with your vet.
Be very diligent in preventing mosquitoe problems in areas around your birds. If mosquitos are a problem in your area, stringent measures need to be taken to control mosquito populations in your garden and homes.
Q. What should I do if I find a dead bird?
A. Check with with your local or state health department for instructions on reporting and diposing of a dead bird. If you need to pick up a dead bird, or local authorities tell you to simply dispose of it: Avoid bare-handed contact with any dead animals, and use gloves or an inverted plastic bag to place the bird carcass in a garbage bag and dispose of it with your routine trash.
Q. Do birds infected with West Nile virus die or become ill?
A. In the 1999 New York area epidemic, there was a large die-off of American crows. Since then, West Nile virus has been identified in more than 200 species of birds found dead in the United States. Most of these birds were identified through reporting of dead birds by the public.
Q. How can I report a sighting of dead bird(s) in my area?
A. State and local health departments start collecting reports of dead birds at different times in the year. Some wait until the weather becomes warm before initiating their surveillance (disease monitoring) program. For information about reporting dead birds in your specific area, please contact your state or local health department.
Q. Why do some areas stop collecting dead birds?
A. Some states and jurisdictions are no longer collecting dead birds because they have sufficiently established that the virus is in an area, and additional testing will not reveal any more information. Shifting resources away from testing of dead birds allows those resources to be devoted elsewhere in surveillance and control.
Many disease-causing organisms / toxins are transmitted via air and water. If you suspect a disease problem (or if you would like to prevent one), please investigate the possibility of filtering your air and purifying / treating your birds' drinking water.
Resources: National Audubon Society: Definition / Hotspots / How to Prevent the Spreading of this Disease ... Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ... Cornell University, Center for the Environment, Environmental Risk Analysis Program ... US Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center
Information contained on this website is provided as general reference only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought.
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