Reporting birds with potential West Nile virus

Undated-- South Georgia is currently covered by pools of standing water, which produce breeding grounds for mosquitoes. These same mosquitoes are preying on birds that may be infected with the West Nile Virus.

Although the most common bird species infected with the West Nile Virus are crows, blue jays and birds of prey, many other bird species may be carriers. Some birds may die when infected with the virus. Dead birds are an important sign that WNV is present in an area. If you find a dead bird of any type, it is important to report it to your local health department.

There are guidelines that you should follow in doing this.

  • Do not handle the bird with your bare hands. Although, WNV is not transmitted this way, it is always best to take this precaution when handling any dead animal. The bird must be very fresh for testing to be useful. If the bird is not refrigerated, decomposition occurs rapidly in the tissue needed for testing the virus, so birds that have been dead more than 24 hours or birds covered in ants usually do not have testable tissue.
  • Virus, even if present, cannot be isolated from birds that have been dead more than 24 hours, unless these birds have been refrigerated within that time frame.
  • Birds covered in ants are not good candidates for testing as ants target soft tissues, so the ants destroy the organs needed for testing.
  • If you have found a dead bird you need to call your local health department and give them vital information about your find. The information they will likely ask for will be the location you found the bird, what type of bird it is and if you can tell how long the bird has been dead.
  • The health department will then let you know whether or not they would like you to bring the bird in for additional testing.
  • To bring the bird in for testing, it is important that you remember to cover your hands when picking up the specimen and double bag it before taking it in to the health department.

To report dead birds during business hours Monday through Friday call your local health department.  Your county should be listed below.

To report birds on the weekend or after hours call toll free at 1-866-801-5360.

Not all birds will be tested for WNV because not all birds die from WNV. Should you be told that you do not need to bring the bird in for testing, simply dispose of it carefully. Again, double bag the bird and either bury it or throw it in a trashcan that closes.

West Nile Virus is much more a severe problem for the elderly and for those with chronic disease, although everyone should take precautions to avoid or limit mosquito bites. Everyone except for infants and pregnant women should wear DEET-based repellent when outside when mosquitoes are biting. However, do not use these repellents on your pets.

Equally important in protecting yourself and your family from WNV is the elimination of mosquito breeding sites in your home environment. Mosquitoes breed rapidly in standing water. Remember to empty all containers around your house at least once a week. Also make sure that all gutters are cleaned regularly and that window screens are in good repair.

There are many things that you can do to protect yourself and your family. Remember that mosquitoes, not birds are the problem. Because birds can fly for long distances after infected, they do not indicate an increased threat in the immediate area where they are found.

Protective measures should be in place during the entire mosquito season. These do not change if a bird tests positive or is tested at all.

County Health Departments

Atkinson       912-422-3332

Baker             229-734-5226

Ben Hill         229-426-5288

Berrien          229-686-5411

Brooks          229-263-7585

Calhoun        229-849-2515

Charlton        912-496-2561

Clay                229-768-2355

Clinch            912-487-2199

Coffee            912-389-4450

Colquitt         229-891-7100

Cook              229-896-3030

Crisp              229-276-2680

Decatur         229-248-3055

Dodge           478-374-5576

Dooly             229-268-4725

Dougherty    229-430-6200

Early              229-723-3707

Echols           229-559-5103

Grady             229-377-2992
Irwin               229-468-5196

Lanier            229-482-3294

Lee                 229-759-3014
Lowndes      229-333-5255

Miller              229-758-3344

Mitchell          229-336-2055

Pulaski          478-783-1361

Quitman        229-334-3697

Randolph     229-732-2414

Seminole      229-524-2577

Stewart          229-838-4859

Sumter          229-924-3637

Telfair            229-868-7404

Terrell            229-995-8435

Thomas         229-226-4241

Tift                  229-386-8373

Turner           229-567-4357

Ware              912-283-1875

Webster        229-828-3225

Wilcox           229-365-2310

Worth             229-777-2150