Since West Nile virus is deadly to certain kinds of birds, especially crows and blue jays, reporting and testing of dead birds has historically been a way to detect WNV activity in a given area.
In recent years, however, tracking and testing dead birds has become less useful for monitoring West Nile virus activity because so few birds are still susceptible to fatal WNV infection. Consequently, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health discontinued routine laboratory testing of dead wild birds for West Nile virus in April 2009.
The department's current surveillance activities focus primarily on mosquito collection and testing, a more reliable predictor of potential risk of WNV infection to humans and domestic animals.
For more information, read the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Frequently Asked Questions About Dead Birds and West Nile Virus.
People should avoid touching a live or dead bird or their droppings with their bare hands since harmful germs could be present. However, there is no evidence that a person can get WNV from handling infected birds. West Nile virus can only be transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.
To report a dead bird on public property in Cambridge, call the Cambridge Department of Public Works, 349-4800.
A dead bird found on private property in Cambridge should be disposed of by the owner or management. Rubber gloves should be worn when handling bird carcasses.
Last reviewed on July 11, 2014