PAXTON — The Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department is asking the public to help collect dead birds in Ford and Iroquois counties and turn them in to the health department's offices in Paxton and Watseka so they can be tested for the presence of West Nile virus.
"Since West Nile virus arrived in Illinois at the end of the summer of 2001, dead birds have been important sentinels for early West Nile virus activity," said Terry Eimen, environmental health director for the health department. "We are looking for 'perching birds' such as crows, blue jays, starlings, robins, cardinals, mockingbirds, catbirds and grackles. Also, many species of sparrows, finches, flycatchers, swallows, warblers and wrens will be accepted for testing."
Eimen said submitted birds should be believed to be dead fewer than 24 hours. Birds should only be submitted if they have not been damaged by scavenging animals and are not decomposed.
Birds that have an obvious cause of death such as a gunshot wound or that have been hit by vehicles are not eligible for testing.
Residents who find dead birds should double-bag them in plastic bags — plastic bags that seal are the best — and then take them to the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department offices at 235 N. Taft St. in Paxton or at 114 N. Third St. in Watseka.