West Nile Virus

 

West Nile Virus
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West Nile Virus Symptoms in Birds

West Nile Virus Symptoms in BirdsWest 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 probable.

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.

 

Irene Gradinger is editor for The West Nile Virus website. For more information about the disease, visit her site at www.west-nile-virus-prevention.com.

 

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