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Snohomish Health District is the local public health agency for Snohomish County in Washington state. Our news releases are a resource for current public health information for media, the public, policymakers, and other community partners.

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West Nile Virus detected in Snohomish bird

Health District reports first infected bird found in western Washington

SNOHOMISH COUNTY --- A dead crow found in Snohomish County has tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV), according to local health officials. The bird was collected near the town of Snohomish and brought to Snohomish Health District Oct. 7. Birds are sent for virus testing to the USGS National Wildlife Center Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin.

Crows, jays and ravens are among the first birds to become infected and die of the virus. The Health District has submitted a total of nine birds to the Wisconsin lab for testing since mid April. Statewide, about 160 birds have been collected and tested through the Washington Department of Health WNV surveillance program.

“The chance of human infection is very low --- less than one percent of people who are bitten by an infected mosquito will become severely ill,” said M. Ward Hinds, MD, MPH, head of the county’s health department. “We knew that West Nile Virus would arrive in western Washington, it was only a matter of when,” he said.

This is the second detection of the mosquito-borne virus in a bird collected in Washington state. The first was in a raven found dead near Newport in eastern Washington in mid-September. To date, two human cases of viral infection have been reported in Washington. Both people acquired the infection in other states, and neither individual developed a serious illness.

“Fortunately the risk of mosquito bites drops when the first frost arrives,” said Dr. Hinds. He said the health district already is planning surveillance activities for next spring’s mosquito season. The plan includes a strong educational message to county residents about ways to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

Recommended precautions include using DEET mosquito repellents, and getting rid of old tires and other containers where mosquitoes could lay eggs in accumulated water.

“We really appreciate the public response in helping us watch for West Nile,” said Randal Darst, director of the Health District’s surveillance program. “Mosquitoes transmit the virus, birds don’t. You shouldn’t worry about having a dead crow in your backyard. No West Nile Virus infections in the general public have been associated with handling birds.”

To report a dead bird or for information about WNV, call the health district’s message line at 425.339.8720. Callers need to leave their name and phone number, the date and location the bird was found, and a description of the bird.

Established in 1959, the Snohomish Health District works to improve the health of individuals, families and communities through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. Find more information about the Health District at


If the Health District determines the bird is a good specimen, you will need to bring the bird to Snohomish Health District as soon as possible for packing and shipping to a lab for testing. Come during business hours to Suite 104, 3020 Rucker Avenue, Everett. If you find the bird on the weekend, bag it as directed below and store it in ice.

It is prudent to avoid touching sick or dead birds with bare hands. Use disposable gloves to put the dead crow in a double plastic bag and tie it off. If gloves are not available, place a doubled plastic bag over your hand, pick up the bird with the covered hand, and pull the bag around the bird.