West Nile virus can infect many bird species, particularly crows and jays, according to the CDC. Could the virus have caused the mysterious demise of these birds in the United States?
Until now, scientists are still baffled by the sudden bird deaths that the country has observed. Reports said that hundreds of birds have been dying in the South and Midwest parts of the country.
So, what is killing the birds in the US?
Sudden Bird Deaths in the US
Washington, D.C., and wildlife experts in at least six states reported an increase in bird deaths in the past month, which are mostly blue jays, common grackles, and European starlings.
Avian biologist Kate Slankard from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources said that there are an unusual amount of dying birds this year and scientists have yet figured the reason why.
NBC News reported that other than Kentucky and Washington, other states have also reported similar cases of dead birds. These are Ohio, Maryland, and West Virginia.
Slankard said that wildlife experts are now working on figuring out the problem that killed hundreds of birds in the country. She noted that it is not easy to come up with the diagnosis yet as several rounds of lab tests must be done.
Several theories have come to light on what caused the birds to become sick and suddenly die. This includes a widespread infectious disease, the cicada outbreak, and pesticides, according to wildlife biologist Laura Kearns from the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
Moreover, Indiana wildlife experts said that there have been suspicious deaths as well among the bluejays, robins, northern cardinals, and brown-headed cowbirds in five counties. Upon testing, the birds were all negative of the West Nile virus.
In September 2020, similar cases of mysterious bird deaths were also recorded in New Mexico. But experts said that they are not yet sure whether the two events were related.
Symptoms of the Suspicious Bird Deaths
According to the news outlet, symptoms of suspicious bird deaths include crusty or swollen eyes, as well as neurological symptoms like seizures and the inability to stay balanced.
Wildlife experts suggest that birds are seen to behave as if they were blind and exhibited other unusual behaviors. They noticed that even when humans approach them, these birds were not flying away.
"They will just sit still, often kind of shaking," Slankard said as quoted by NBC News. "It's pretty safe to say that hundreds of birds in the state have had this problem."
Precautions to Prevent Transmission of Diseases Among Birds
The US Geological Survey said that birds gathering at feeders or birdbaths can transmit diseases on to be another. They advise the public in areas where the outbreaks are happening to stop feeding the birds for now to prevent the further spread of the disease that might be causing the sudden deaths of birds, WebMD reported.
Also, experts urge the public to immediately report any suspicious bird deaths and avoid touching them. Sterilizing the birdbaths by using a 10% bleach solution could also help to kill the possible breeding ground of germs.
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