News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Health Department says there’s no need to collect
dead birds for West Nile Virus testing

Now that West Nile Virus is well established in northwest Michigan, public health officials say there is no need to collect dead birds for testing. Dead birds, especially crows and jays, can be reported as a way to monitor West Nile Virus activity. The easiest way to report a dead bird sighting is through the State of Michigan West Nile Virus website: Anyone who finds a dead bird should wear rubber gloves to double wrap it in plastic bags and put it out for collection with other household trash, said Joshua Meyerson, Medical Director for the Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency, the health department that serves Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties.

“Now that we know West Nile Virus is here, and here to stay, our focus has turned from surveillance to prevention,” said Meyerson. “A few easy precautions will help prevent people from becoming infected with West Nile Virus.” If outside from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active, or during the day in an area where there are weeds, tall grass or bushes, people should wear protective clothing, such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks. Individuals should also consider using an insect repellent containing DEET according to the manufacturer’s directions on the label.

Mosquitoes can enter homes through unscreened windows or doors or through broken screens so it is important that they have tight fitting screens without tears or holes.

“It’s also important to drain all standing water in your yard,” Meyerson said. “Be sure to empty water in mosquito breeding sites such as flower pots, bird baths, and pet bowls at least once or twice a week, and keep gutters unclogged.”

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis or meningitis. Humans can become infected with the West Nile Virus when they are bitten by a mosquito with the virus. Mosquitoes get the virus from infected birds. Humans cannot contract West Nile Virus directly from another person, animal, or bird that has the disease.

Most people who are infected with West Nile Virus either have no symptoms at all or they experience mild illness such as fever, headache and body aches. Some people develop a mild rash or swollen lymph glands. In some individuals, particularly the elderly, West Nile Virus can cause serious disease that affects brain tissue. At its most serious, it can cause permanent neurological damage and can be fatal.

Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information about West Nile Virus, call the Michigan West Nile Virus Hotline at 800-668-0869 or visit