West Nile Virus Symptoms in Birds
Nile virus is a serious illness which is transmitted
by a mosquito that carries the disease. A
mosquito becomes infected after biting an
infected bird; thereafter, it may pass the
virus on to other birds, humans, or animals.
The West Nile virus cannot be transferred
from a bird to a human. When a human contracts
the virus, symptoms such as fever, headache,
nausea, rash and swollen glands, may become
apparent soon after. However, it is not the
same case with birds. West Nile virus symptoms
in birds are usually non-existent. Birds do
not usually show signs of infection until
the last stage of the disease, which is encephalitis
or inflammation of the brain. An infected
bird may appear drowsy, be unable to fly or
walk properly; it may even have problems standing
upright. The West Nile virus has been reported
in over 150 species of birds in North America.
Prevention of the Virus in Birds
There is no surefire way to obliterate the virus presently, but there
are certain ways to reduce the likelihood of its presence in your area.
Water in birdbaths should be changed every 48 hours to prevent mosquito
eggs from hatching and potentially passing on the disease to birds and
humans. Investigate your property and eliminate any source of standing
water, which can attract mosquitoes; properly chlorinate pools and other
ornamental ponds on your property. If you notice a bird that appears
to demonstrate the symptoms of infection, immediately call your local
veterinarian or wildlife organization. They can advise you on how to
capture, handle and transport the bird to a recommended place. Crows,
ravens, magpies and blue jays are known to be the most susceptible,
and the most likely to exhibit the recognizable symptoms of West Nile
virus. Therefore, if you are aware of an increase in the deaths of these
three types of birds in your area, the presence of West Nile virus is
Handling Infected Birds
Although West Nile virus symptoms in birds are not always or easily
detectable, there are other existing diseases in birds that are noticeable
and communicable to humans. Always proceed with caution when approaching
or handling a wild bird that appears disoriented, sick or lifeless.
There is no sufficient evidence that a human can contract the West Nile
virus by simply touching an infected bird. However, if you find a dead
bird on or near your property, do not risk touching it with bare hands.
Use thick, leak-proof, rubber gloves, and pick it up with a shovel,
bag or other tool, being careful not to puncture or scratch your skin.
Dispose of the carcass according to your local city’s bylaws.
You may also wish to place a call to your local wildlife organization
to inquire about their West Nile virus testing resources. After handling
the bird, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.