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Bird Information

West Nile virus has been detected in a variety of bird species. Some infected birds, especially crows and jays, are known to get sick and die from infection. Reporting and testing of dead birds is one way to check for the presence of West Nile virus in the environment. The North Dakota dead bird surveillance for West Nile virus involves (a) collecting reports of dead bird sightings and (b) testing dead birds for West Nile virus.

How do birds get infected with West Nile virus?

West Nile virus is transmitted to birds through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected by biting infected birds. Some birds that are predators (such as hawks and owls) or scavengers (such as crows) may become infected after eating sick or dead birds that were already infected with West Nile virus.

Since West Nile virus was discovered in the United States in 1999, the virus has been detected in over 300 species of dead birds. Although some infected birds, especially crows and jays, frequently die of infection, most birds survive.

Can I get West Nile virus directly from birds?

There is no evidence that a person can get infected from handling live or dead infected animals. However, you should avoid bare-handed contact when handling any dead animal. If you must pick up a dead bird, use gloves or an inverted plastic bag to place the bird's body in a garbage bag. You also cannot get West Nile virus through consuming infected birds. However, you should always follow procedures for fully cooking meat to avoid any food-borne pathogens.