July 7, 2005
Eileen Shields, Public Information Officer, 415/554-2507
West Nile Virus Season Approaching
City Officials Remind Residents to Report Dead Birds
San Francisco, CA—West Nile Virus (WNV), a potentially serious illness
that resulted in the deaths of 28 individuals in California last year
and infected 830 others, first makes its presence known among the bird
population. WNV is spread among birds by mosquitoes, and sometimes
infects people as well. State and local health authorities track the
emergence and subsequent spread of WNV throughout the state by
monitoring infection among the dead bird population. The successful
reporting and testing of birds depends on the public’s awareness of dead
birds in their neighborhoods and immediately reporting dead birds to the
State’s WNV dead bird hotline.
Local officials are reminding San Francisco residents that if they find
a dead bird in their neighborhood or workplace location to follow these
- Birds must have died within 24 hours of reporting to be suitable for
testing. Birds with visible signs of decay or damage or strong odor may
be reported, but will not be collected.
- As long as the bird is in a location that is safe from further damage,
leave the bird where it was found.
- Birds may be moved to a safer location until the inspector arrives.
Use caution when handling a dead bird by picking it up with a
combination of a shovel, plastic bags and gloves.
- Report the bird to the State’s WNV dead bird hotline at
1/877-WNV-BIRD. Be sure to give the exact location and the date it was
- The public is encouraged to file the report on-line at
www.westnile.ca.gov where complete, updated information on West Nile in
California can be found.
Local officials say there have been no reports of a bird testing
positive for WNV in San Francisco so far this year, though 20 birds have
been tested since January 2005. In 2004, San Francisco’s first positive
bird was collected in late July. Throughout the season, thirteen more
birds tested positive: six in August, five in September, one in October
and one in November.
Statewide, the number of dead birds testing positive for WNV has jumped
in California, with 109 birds statewide testing positive last week,
compared with only 28 birds the previous week. WNV has been detected in
34 of California’s 58 counties so far this year. WNV was detected in all
counties last year and is expected to be detected statewide again this
“San Francisco is fortunate that we have had no human cases of West Nile
Virus,” noted Mitchell Katz, MD, Director of Health. “We are hoping that
holds true this year as well. Because dead birds can indicate that the
virus is in the local environment, we want people to report them and we
especially want individuals to take precautions against getting bitten
by mosquitoes.” Dr. Katz also emphasized that while it has not been
shown that individuals can get WNV from handling a dead bird, it is
never advisable to touch a dead wild animal with bare hands.