The Department of Health Office of Public Health announces today that three dead birds have tested positive for West Nile virus. The Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine’s Diagnostic Lab performed the tests that detected the virus and reported the results to OPH. One bird, a sparrow, was found in Alexandria, another sparrow in West Monroe and a blue jay in Lafayette.

LDH announced last week that March 21 was the first official day of the 2003 West Nile virus surveillance program, which involves testing dead birds for traces of the virus. Within the first week, LDH received reports of 129 dead birds. During the 2002 outbreak, in 90 percent of the parishes where West Nile virus was found in humans, LDH's surveillance detected it first in bird populations. Early detection allows mosquito abatement and prevention efforts to be targeted to specific communities and neighborhoods. So far, no new human cases of West Nile virus have been reported for 2003.

LDH will test blue jays, crows, cardinals, grackles, seagulls, house sparrows and birds of prey, as well as sentinel chickens, for West Nile virus this year. Testing will take place at the LSU Vet Lab.

Citizens who find a dead bird should notify the parish health unit. For a listing of contact information for each unit, look in the yellow pages or local telephone directory listings, or go to Be ready to give the time, date and address of the bird’s recovery.

Although people cannot contract West Nile virus by touching dead birds, they still should take precautions when handling them. Do not handle a dead bird with bare hands and double bag it with plastic bags before bringing it to the health unit.

To protect yourself from West Nile virus, apply mosquito repellant, wear long sleeves and long pants and avoid wearing perfumes and colognes when outside for prolonged periods of time. Also, remove any standing water from around your home and make sure your windows and doors have secure screens.

For more information on West Nile virus, please visit DHH’s Office of Public Health’s Web site:

During the Day
Call the nearest parish health unit to report a dead bird.
Provide the location and species of birds (or at least size and color).
After Hours and Weekends
Freeze the bird immediately and contact the nearest parish health unit the following business day. Or, citizens can call 1-800-256-2748. Press "3" and this voice mail will allow you to report a dead bird. Be sure to leave your name, phone number and the parish where you live. There might be a slight delay in your call being returned. The voice mail system also provides the toll-free hotline for information on West Nile virus from the CDC.