Skip to main content

West Nile Virus

West Nile virus infects certain wild birds. The infected birds, especially crows, are known to get sick and die from the infection. Reporting of dead birds is a good way to check for West Nile virus activity in the environment to allow implementation of prevention and control measures to minimize the spread of the virus. The SHDHD West Nile virus Surveillance program relies on the District's citizens to report and submit dead birds seen around their property or elsewhere.

Only freshly dead, adult birds can be tested. Tests may be conducted on adult birds that have been dead a short time (24 hours or less), and that are not rotten or covered with ants. Baby birds will not be tested. In general, West Nile Virus tests are run on all birds that are collected.

How to prepare bird for testing

Only birds that have been placed in a plastic bag and put in a safe place can be collected for testing. Do not touch the dead bird with your bare hands. Use disposable gloves or place a plastic bag (without holes) over your hand. Turn the bag inside out over the bird and then tie the bag closed. Wash your hands well with soap and water right after handling the bird.

  • If possible, place a bag of ice on top of the bird (to preserve it) and then put both the bagged bird and bag of ice in a third plastic bag.
  • If you live in Clay, Webster, or Nuckolls Counties you may take prepared birds to your local veterinarian.
  • Please call SHDHD 402-462-6211 for more information.

Join The "SWAT TEAM" Against West Nile Virus

West Nile virus is a disease that can be transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. While it has been common in Africa, Asia and Middle East for decades, it first appeared in the U.S. in 1999 in New York. It has since traveled westward across the U.S.

In Nebraska, human cases of West Nile virus showed up in 2002, with 174 cases and 7 deaths. Human West Nile cases in Nebraska are as follows:

  • 2003          2,366 cases, 29 deaths.
  • 2004          54 cases, 0 deaths. 
  • 2005          241 cases, 5 deaths.     
  • 2006          311 cases, 2 deaths.   
  • 2007          163 cases, 4 deaths.
  • 2008          45 cases, 0 deaths.    
  • 2009          52 cases, 0 deaths.
  • 2010          39 cases, 2 deaths.   
  • 2011          29 cases, 0 deaths. 
  • 2012          193 cases, 4 deaths.  
  • 2013          226 cases, 5 deaths.  
  • 2014          142 cases, 8 deaths.
  • 2015          93 cases, 2 deaths.   
  • 2016          123 cases, 0 deaths.
  • 2017          63 cases,   2 deaths
  • 2018          288 cases, 11 deaths
  • 2019            32 cases, 0 deaths


The virus is carried long distances by infected birds and then spread locally by mosquitoes that bite these birds. The mosquitoes can then pass the virus to humans and animals, but primarily to birds and horses. There is a vaccine for horses. A human vaccine is being developed, but won't be available for several years. Dogs and cats can be infected, but rarely become ill and don't spread the virus.


Mosquitoes lay eggs in still water which hatch in seven to ten days. If standing water is eliminated, many mosquitoes will be kept from breeding in the first place.

Here are some effective things you can do:    

  • Remove standing water in ponds, ditches, gutters, flower pots, tires and cans.
  • Check unusual items that might contain water such as wheelbarrows, hubcaps, toys, garden equipment, pool covers and plastic sheeting. Turn these items upside down to prevent them from holding water
  • Drill drainage holes in tire swing
  • Stock ornamental ponds, fountains and livestock water tanks with fish that eat mosquito larvae to treat with BTI, a natural bacteria that kills larvae. These can be purchased at garden and home stores or feed and supply stores.


  • Dusk to Dawn - Stay indoors from dusk to dawn.These are the times when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Dress - Dress in pants and long sleeves when you are outside, especially in mosquito-infested areas.
  • DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide)- Apply insect repellent that contains DEET. Read and follow label instructions, especially when using on children. Spray both exposed skin and clothing with repellent.
  • Drain - Get rid of standing water in your yard and neighborhood. Old tires, flowerpots, clogged rain gutters, leaky pipes and faucets, birdbaths and wading pools are breeding sites for mosquitoes.