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Va. Dept. of Wildlife Resources receives over 1,400 reports of sick, dying birds

Officials still do not know the source behind the illness.
Officials still do not know the source behind the illness.(Belinda Burwell, DVM via Virginia Dept. of Wildlife Resources)
Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 3:57 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Wildlife officials are still trying to figure out what is causing hundreds of birds to be sick or dying in Virginia and other states.

Between May 23 and June 30, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources said it has taken over 1,400 reports of sick or dying birds. Of the reported cases, about 450 were described as having eye issues and/or neurological signs.

The counties where the cases have been reported so far include Alexandria, Arlington, Clarke, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Manassas, Prince William, Shenandoah, Warren and Winchester.

On a larger scale, cases of sick or dying birds first started being reported in late May in Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. DWR said additional reports have also come in from Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.

“While the majority of affected birds are reported to be fledgling common grackles, blue jays, European starlings, and American robins, other species of songbirds have been reported as well,” DWR said.

Multiple laboratories are working to determine what is causing the illness and death. Within the birds tested, the following infectious agents have not been found: Salmonella and Chlamydia (bacterial pathogens); avian influenza virus, West Nile virus and other flaviviruses, Newcastle disease virus and other paramyxoviruses, herpesviruses and poxviruses; and Trichomonas parasites. Additional microbiology, virology, parasitology and toxicology diagnostic testing are ongoing.

Right now, no human health, domestic livestock or poultry issued have been reported.

The DWR is recommending the following to help limit the risk of transmission:

  • Cease feeding birds in the affected areas until this wildlife morbidity/mortality event subsides ;
  • Clean feeders and birdbaths with a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach mixed with nine parts water), rinse with water, and allow to air dry;
  • Avoid handling birds unless necessary. If you do handle them wear disposable gloves. If picking up a dead bird, place an inverted plastic bag over your hand to avoid direct contact with the bird; and
  • Keep pets (including pet birds) away from sick or dead wild birds as a standard precaution.
  • If at any time you find multiple dead birds in your yard over a short period of time, regardless of whether or not there is an ongoing bird mortality event, it is prudent to clean feeders and birdbaths with a 10% bleach solution.

Anyone who encounters a sick or dead bird is asked to submit an event report, HERE.

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