To contain diseases, public asked to report dead birds
Although West Nile Virus and bird flu are separate diseases, Hawaii residents can help keep watch for them the same way -- by reporting unusual dead birds to authorities.
The state Department of Health and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have partnered to make such reporting easy, with a statewide phone number, 211, and a new Web site, www.gotdeadbird.org.
Both are ways to report "fairly fresh" dead birds that have not been killed by obvious causes, such as a car strike or a dog attack, the Web site says. Birds that are decomposing or flattened by cars cannot be tested.
Scientific testing of dead birds can provide early detection of West Nile Virus and bird flu (avian influenza). Neither disease has been detected in Hawaii, but could arrive here.
Either disease could show up in wild or pet birds, or poultry.
Trained Aloha United Way operators will answer 211 calls, ask questions to determine whether the bird is appropriate for testing, and send trained agency staff to pick up the bird. The state Department of Health's laboratory will conduct testing.
The Web site www.gotdeadbird.org has information about the diseases and photographs to help identify birds of particular concern.
According to the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species, a public-private partnership working to protect Hawaii from invasive species:
» West Nile Virus was introduced to New York in 1999, and has spread across the United States, Canada and Mexico with migrating birds. Only Alaska and Hawaii do not have the virus, and Hawaii officials are working to prevent the disease from arriving here.
West Nile Virus has killed 967 people and sickened more than 24,000 in the United States. It has caused some populations of birds to decline as much as 45 percent. Hawaii's native birds could be at particular risk if it arrived here.
» Bird flu is a virus that usually affects birds. It is highly contagious between birds, and has caused millions of deaths in wild and domestic birds in areas where the virus has spread in Asia, parts of Europe, Africa, and the Near East.
Although it is rare for people to catch bird flu, there have been roughly 200 human cases to date, most caused when people came into contact with excretions or fluids of infected birds.
Recent feral chicken deaths on Kauai are not believed to be caused by either of these diseases, but the birds are being tested.