West Nile Virus (WNV) has been detected in dead birds of at least 138 species. Although birds, particularly crows and jays, infected with the WNV virus can die or become ill, most infected birds do survive.
There is no evidence that a person can get WNV from handling live or dead infected birds. Persons should avoid bare-handed contact when handling any dead animals, and use gloves or double plastic bags to place the bird carcass in a garbage bag.
California has launched a statewide public education effort about personal protection measures and reporting dead birds.
Why the Public is Urged to Report Dead Birds
The public is encouraged to assist in the efforts to detect and monitor WNV by calling the WNV hotline if they find a crow, raven, magpie, jay, or hawk that has been dead for about a day. Birds play an important role in maintaining and spreading this virus. Mosquitoes acquire the virus from infected birds, and then transmit the virus to people. Evidence of the virus in dead birds is often the first indication that WNV has been introduced into a new region. The California Department of Health Services has set up a toll-free hotline for the public to report dead birds: 877-WNV-BIRD. Birds can also be reported by visiting the Visit the California Department of Public Health's West Nile Virus page to "report a dead bird".
Many have asked, "is it safe to continue the use of bird feeders around our homes?" There is no evidence that a person can be infected with WNV by even handling live birds. It is more important to eliminate mosquito breeding areas around the home. Please refer to our Home and Garden Maintenance Checklist for more information.