Mercer County Health Dept. Collecting Dead Birds For West Nile Testing

The Mercer County Health Department will be submitting dead birds to the University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Urbana for West Nile virus testing through October 15th.  In addition to crows and blue jays, the lab will be accepting grackles, sparrows, finches, robins, cardinals, flycatchers, swallows, catbirds, mockingbirds, warblers, and wrens.  The lab will also test small or medium size hawks and owls.  If you see a dead bird that you believe is one of the species listed, please chill the bird with ice packs or refrigerated as soon as possible.  Birds should only be submitted if they are freshly dead (< 48 hours) and not decomposed and not damaged by scavenging animals.  Birds should have no obvious cause of death such as being hit by a car or killed by gunshot.   Contact Mercer County Health Department at 309-582-3761 to arrange pick up or drop off.   Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website at
West Nile Virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on a bird infected with the virus.  Most people who become infected with West Nile will have either no symptoms or only mild symptoms of illness.  Only about two out of ten people who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness.  Illness associated with West Nile is typically mild and includes symptoms such as fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness, such as encephalitis and meningitis are possible.  People older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of developing serious illnesses due to West Nile Virus.