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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 (i.e., it died within the past 48 hours). If the carcass has an odor, is soft and mushy, has sunken eyes, has skin discoloration or the feathers and skin rub off easily, or if maggots are present, the bird has been dead too long to test.

Before handling the bird, make sure you have all of the necessary supplies. Protective gloves are helpful, however they are not necessary. The essential supplies include a plastic bag, a zipper lock plastic bag, a piece of paper for recording 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 or a freezer (this is necessary if the bird cannot be dropped off or picked up within 24 hours).

How to Handle Dead Birds

1. Use waterproof protective gloves when handling the dead bird; if gloves are not available, simply insert your hand into a plastic bag (a dog waste bag or grocery bag will work).

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) and seal.

5. Wash your hands with soap and water.

6. Include the following information:

7. Call your local public health unit or veterinarian 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.


Thank you for your participation!

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.

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