The blue jay, bald eagle, and American robin are among 18 bird species that have tested positive for the virus that causes West Nile encephalitis. The illness recently was detected for the first time in the United States in an outbreak in the Northeast, in which the American crow was implicated in its transmission.
"The variety of birds is disturbing because many of these species migrate to other areas and could potentially disseminate the disease elsewhere," said Robert G. McLean, PhD, director of the US Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. The USGS has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track and test birds in the New York area to determine how many species have been exposed to the virus. Of 392 individual birds tested, about 49% were infected with the West Nile virus.
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