West Nile Virus Home > Dead Birds

West Nile virus can infect humans, birds, mosquitoes, horses, and some other mammals. Over the past few years, many dead birds have been identified as having West Nile virus. There is no evidence that West Nile virus can be transmitted to humans through eating infected birds.

Dead Birds and West Nile Virus

West Nile virus is a flavivirus (transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks) commonly found in Africa, West Asia, and the Middle East. It is closely related to the St. Louis encephalitis virus, which is also found in the United States. The virus can infect humans, birds, mosquitoes, horses, and some other mammals. A West Nile virus infection in birds can cause serious illness or death.
In the 1999 New York area epidemic, there was a large die-off of American crows. Since then, West Nile virus has been identified in more than 200 species of birds in the United States. Most of these birds were identified through the public reporting of dead birds.


Check with your local or state health department for instructions on reporting and disposing of a dead bird.
Some states and jurisdictions are no longer collecting dead birds because they have sufficiently established that the West Nile virus is in an area, and additional testing will not reveal any more information. Shifting resources away from testing of dead birds allows those resources to be devoted elsewhere in surveillance and control.

Handling Dead Birds

There is no evidence that a person can get West Nile virus from handling live or dead birds that are infected. However, people should avoid bare-handed contact when handling any dead birds. People should also use gloves or two plastic bags to place the carcass in a garbage can.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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