Help track the West Nile virus

Jul 28, 2011

If you see dead birds, especially clusters of dead crows, King County health officials want to hear from you.

The dead birds could indicate the presence of West Nile virus, which can be deadly to humans. Over the next three months, dead birds reported to Public Health will be collected for laboratory testing for the virus if they are deemed suitable candidates for testing.

To be tested, the bird must be a crow, raven, jay, or magpie, dead for less than 24 hours, and have no visible trauma or decay. You can report dead bird sightings at 206-205-4394, or fill out a report online at the Seattle and King County public health website. Outside of King County, use the Washington state Department of Health website.

The virus is relatively rare in humans, but it can be deadly; 1,021 cases were reported in 41 states in 2010, and 57 people died from it. People of all ages can catch the disease, but those over the age of 50 are the most likely to become seriously ill. Most people infected with West Nile never show symptoms, but some can show mild to severe symptoms, including diseases of the brain and spinal cord.

West Nile virus wasn't detected in King County in 2010, but it has been found in previous years.

Protecting yourself and others

The illness is spread by mosquitoes, which prefer to lay eggs in standing water found around most houses. Even small amounts of water around the home can produce mosquitoes and should be eliminated. Seattle and King County public health officials recommend the following:

  • Tip out containers that collect water, including barrels, buckets, wheelbarrows, bottles, wading pools, birdbaths, animal troughs and plant saucers
  • Dump water off of tarps and plastic sheeting and get rid of used tires
  • Clean garden ponds, circulate water in fountains and cover rain barrels with mosquito screens
  • Clean leaf-clogged gutters and repair leaky outdoor faucets
  • Repair ripped windows and door screens and make sure they fit tight so adult mosquitoes can’t get into your home
  • Help elderly neighbors with these actions

You can avoid getting bitten when mosquitoes are out by wearing long sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks. You may want to use an insect repellent