September 09, 2002

Bird collection for West Nile Virus on hold


NEWMARKET - The Province of Ontario has imposed a cap on dead bird testing for West Nile Virus (WNV) surveillance, limiting the number of birds submitted by local health units. As York Region has reached its bird submission limit, residents are advised that Health Services staff will not be picking up dead bird specimens until further notice.

"York Region Health Services is very grateful for the support of residents in reporting dead birds as part of our West Nile Virus surveillance program," commented Dr. Hanif Kassam, Associate Medical Officer of Health and Director of Public Health Programs for York Region. " We are not able to collect specimens, but we most certainly want residents to continue to call and report dead crows that they find. Each call is appreciated as a vital link in our further understanding of the presence of West Nile Virus in York Region."

The location of dead crows remains valuable information for York Region's WNV surveillance program. Should a resident find a dead crow on their property, the following steps should be taken:

  1. Contact York Region Health Services through the Health Connection line

    (1-800-361-5653) during regular working hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) to report the location of the bird. Detailed information and steps to follow will be given. If you call after hours, follow the recorded menu provided.

  2. Do not handle the bird with bare hands. The dead bird can be disposed of by digging a hole approximately 24" deep, lifting the bird with a shovel, placing it in the hole and covering it firmly with soil. Wash the shovel afterwards using a garden hose.
  3. Should you be unable to dig a hole on your property, pick up the bird using the following practise:

This year, Health Connection has received 1542 calls from residents about dead birds. Of those, 610 were for dead crows, the species that is being collected, and, of those, 125 were appropriate for pick up by Health Services staff. Fifty crows have been submitted to the Canadian Co-operative Wildlife Health Centre laboratory in Guelph for WNV testing, according to Provincial WNV surveillance protocol.

Test results for WNV have confirmed eight crows and two mosquito pools in York Region this season. There have been no known human cases of WNV in York Region, to date.

WNV is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. In humans, it takes about 3 to 12 days after a bite from an infected mosquito for flu-like symptoms to begin. Most people infected will have no symptoms or very mild illness. Symptoms range from mild fever and headache to loss of consciousness, seizures, weakness on one side of the body and swelling of the brain resulting in brain damage. People over the age of 50 have the highest risk for severe symptoms.

WNV is transmitted to the bird population in the same manner. Symptoms in birds manifest as neurological signs such as convulsions, tremors, head tilt, wing droop and paralysis. Crows are known to be most susceptible to the disease.

Although the risk of coming into contact with the WNV is minimal, there are precautions that can be taken:

For more information, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit the West Nile Virus update on the Regional website at

Contact: Kim Clark, York Region Health Services

905-830-4444 Ext. 4101

The Regional Municipality of York is committed to providing cost-effective, quality services that respond to the needs of our rapidly growing communities.  York Region is comprised of the following nine area municipalities:  Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Whitchurch-Stouffville.  For more information, visit our Web site at:

Contact: Patrick Casey, Senior Media Relations Specialist, York Region

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