West Nile Virus 2001
Crow Surveillance and Testing Protocal

INTRODUCTION: In May 2000, the New Jersey Public Health and Environmental Laboratory (PHEL) confirmed West Nile virus (WNV) positive birds in Bergen County indicating the return of WNV to New Jersey. By the end of the 2000 season, PHEL, and the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) accepted over 3,000 birds for WNV testing from all 21 counties, reporting 1,283 positive birds in 18 of the 21 counties.

Crows are good sentinels for detecting the presence of WNV activity in a general geographic area because of their susceptibility to the virus. Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping of the location of these positive birds enable public health and mosquito control agencies to respond quickly to enhance preventive measures and reduce the risk of potential human cases. Once again, we are requesting the assistance of local health officers, animal control officers, local police, and wildlife management professionals in the reporting of crow morbidity and mortality incidents in New Jersey for the 2001 season.

We have prepared the following guidelines for monitoring and reporting crow morbidity and mortality. Local health departments (LHDs) are requested to be the lead agency for the coordination of DEAD/ILL BIRD REPORT FORMS by faxing these forms weekly to the Department of Health (DOH). Fax Number: 609-631-4863

CROW MORBIDITY and MORTALITY - Submission and Reporting

DEAD/ILL BIRD REPORT FORMS: LHDs should receive reports of dead or ill (those birds exhibiting neurological signs) from citizens, animal control officers, and local police. LHDs are responsible for informing animal control officers and local police of the proper submission and reporting protocol. BIRD DEAD/ILL REPORT FORMS must be completed in their entirety and faxed to the DOH, Infectious and Zoonotic Disease Program, at 609-631-4863. LHDs should ensure that the specific address of the dead or ill bird and county are included. Addresses are critical when mapping the exact location of positive birds.

DEAD/ILL BIRD REPORT FORMS should be faxed to DOH regardless if the bird is submitted to the laboratory. If a resident reports a dead crow, fill out the DEAD/ILL BIRD REPORT FORM and fax to DOH, even if the bird is unacceptable for submission. As the season progresses, dead crow sightings are very likely to reflect WNV activity, based on data from 2000.

LHDs should also fax DEAD/ILL BIRD REPORT FORMS to their respective mosquito agencies to facilitate efficient mosquito surveillance. At the peak of the WNV season, information on dead bird sightings becomes paramount for surveillance purposes as the avian positivity rate approaches 95 percent.

SUBMISSION: Specimens must be submitted to PHEL within 4-5 days of collection, preferably less. All specimens should be kept refrigerated and shipped to the lab on cold packs. DO NOT SHIP SPECIMENS to PHEL on a Friday. LHDs should ensure that specimens arrive on or before Friday, as the lab is closed on Saturday.

DO NOT FREEZE BIRDS. Birds showing signs of decay, decomposition, or infested with maggots should NOT be submitted. Birds with obvious signs of trauma (i.e., hit by car, flew into a window, mauled by a cat or dog) are unsatisfactory for WNV testing and need NOT be submitted.

Laboratory personnel have requested that the birds be submitted as follows:

  1. Place each bird into a separate one-gallon, clear, plastic bag with "Easy Close Slider/Zipper."
  2. Place the completed lab submission form into a separate clear, plastic zip lock bag.
  3. Firmly secure the two (2) bags together with staples.

Do not submit samples in large garbage bags. Samples that are not submitted according to this protocol and with proper paperwork will NOT be tested.

Copies of all forms should be kept by the LHD for record keeping purposes.

Reporting: The DOH will contact Health Officers by telephone to report positive results. All other results will be shared via our LINCS system on a weekly basis. If you are not receiving weekly results via LINCS, contact your county LINCS coordinator.

LHDs are responsible for calling their respective mosquito agencies to report positive bird results.

Satisfactory and Unsatisfactory bird lists will be sent weekly via LINCS. LHDs should check lists regularly to ensure there are no missing addresses. Specific addresses are needed for GIS mapping of positive birds.

HAWK and FALCONS: Dr. Douglas Roscoe, DFW, will accept dead hawks and falcons. Specimens may be submitted to the PHEL utilizing the same submission form as the crows, except note "Attention: Dr. Roscoe" on the form. DEAD/ILL BIRD REPORT FORMS must also be filled out for birds of prey and faxed to DOH and respective mosquito agencies weekly. If other species (i.e., waterfowl) are found dead or exhibiting neurological signs, consult with Dr. Roscoe at 908-735-6398 for submission approval.

COMMUNICATION: Memos, weekly summaries, or changes in submission protocol will be sent from DOH via LINCS. If you do not have a computer, please contact your LINCS coordinator so he/she can fax memos, weekly summaries, or changes in submission protocol notices to you.

*REMINDER*: It is the responsibility of the LHD to communicate weekly bird results with respective mosquito agencies.

Thanks to all of you for your proactive efforts last year. We hope to do an even better job reporting and communicating this year. If you have additional questions or suggestions, contact Cheryl Farello or Jean Caporaso at 609-588-3121.


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