Community asked to keep reporting dead birds
Community members from across the state helped form a network to monitor for the arrival of two potentially harmful diseases, bird flu (avian influenza, H5N1) and West Nile Virus. Neither of these diseases is present in Hawai‘i, but they could arrive, and early detection could potentially minimize impacts to people, domestic animals and wildlife. Last year, citizen monitoring and reporting of dead birds resulted in nearly 500 calls and online reports across the state. Of these, nearly two hundred birds were deemed appropriate for testing, and all results were negative for these viruses.
“Dead bird reporting is an important part of Hawai‘i’s monitoring effort to find these diseases as soon as possible, while there may still be a chance to eradicate them here,” said Laurence Lau, Deputy Director for Environmental Health at the Hawai‘i Department of Health.
These diseases could show up in wild or pet birds or poultry, if the diseases arrive in Hawai‘i. Since both diseases can sicken and kill birds, Hawai‘i’s birds can serve as a sentinel for either disease. Finding a dead bird could mean that West Nile Virus or bird flu is present.
Anyone finding a dead bird that is fairly fresh (not decomposed), and not flattened (flat birds that have been run over by vehicles are not testable) is asked to call 211 to the Aloha United Way operators to report it for possible testing. Reports may also be made online at www.gotdeadbird.org.
“Although we collect reports of all species of dead birds, we do not test doves, pigeons, and mynah birds. They very rarely die from West Nile Virus, and are highly unlikely to carry bird flu. It’s better that people report dead birds than not, though. If we have a high number of dead birds in any area, that may signal that something is going on that needs further investigation, even if it is not West Nile or bird flu,” Lau noted.
Persons reporting dead birds do not need to know what type of bird they are reporting. The 211 operators receiving the calls and online reports determine if the dead bird should be picked up for testing, and may dispatch trained staff to pick up the bird and deliver it to the Hawaii Department of Health State Laboratory for disease testing. Help protect Hawai‘i by participating in this early detection effort. For more information on the project, visit www.gotdeadbird.org.