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West Nile Virus Dead Bird Surveillance: Bird Handling Instructions

Persons should avoid barehanded contact when handling dead birds or any other dead wildlife.

When collecting a dead bird, make sure that it is freshly dead (died within 48 hours). If the carcass has an odor, has maggots present, has sunken eyes, is soft and mushy, has skin discoloration or the feathers and skin rub off easily, the bird has been dead too long to test.

Before handling the bird, make sure you have all the necessary supplies. Protective gloves such as latex, rubber or vinyl would be helpful, however they are not crucial. The essential supplies include: plastic bags, a piece of paper for collecting bird location information and a place to keep the bird cool until arrangements are made to ship the bird for testing. To keep the bird cool, you can store it in a refrigerator (preferably away from food) or a freezer (if the bird is not able to be dropped off or picked up within 24 hours).

How to handle dead birds:

1. Use protective gloves when handling the dead bird, if gloves are not available; simply insert your hand into a plastic bag (it will cover some of your arm as well).

2. Pick up the bird with your covered hand.

3. Tie the bag shut.

4. Insert the bag with the bird into a second bag (preferably a zipper lock bag if a large enough bag is available) and seal.

5. Wash your hands with soap and water.

6. Include the following information:

7. Call your local public health unit, veterinarian, etc to arrange for drop-off or pick-up of the bird.

8. Keep the bird refrigerated until it is to be dropped off or picked up. If the bird is not able to be dropped off or picked up within 24 hours, please keep it frozen.

If you have any further questions, please contact your local public health unit or the North Dakota Department of Health at 800.472.2180 or via email Thank you for your participation.

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