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Environmental Health

The USGS seeks to understand and minimize exposures to toxic agents and infectious disease agents in the environment.

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How do I handle a sick or dead animal that might have West Nile Virus?

Under normal conditions, humans are unlikely to be infected with West Nile Virus by handling a sick or dead animal. However, there are a number of other infections that could potentially result from handling an animal. To protect yourself from exposure to any illness, you should wear gloves or put a plastic bag over your hand before touching the animal and you should wash your hands with soap and...

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How do I handle a sick or dead animal that might have West Nile Virus?

Under normal conditions, humans are unlikely to be infected with West Nile Virus by handling a sick or dead animal. However, there are a number of other infections that could potentially result from handling an animal. To protect yourself from exposure to any illness, you should wear gloves or put a plastic bag over your hand before touching the animal and you should wash your hands with soap and...

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How do I know if an animal is infected with West Nile Virus?

Signs of infection in wildlife, like in humans, can range from no symptoms to severe symptoms of neurologic illness. Commonly reported signs in animals include weakness, stumbling, trembling, head tremors, inability to fly/walk, and a lack of awareness that allows them to be easily approached and handled. These symptoms, however, can also have other causes. The only way to positively confirm West...

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How do I know if an animal is infected with West Nile Virus?

Signs of infection in wildlife, like in humans, can range from no symptoms to severe symptoms of neurologic illness. Commonly reported signs in animals include weakness, stumbling, trembling, head tremors, inability to fly/walk, and a lack of awareness that allows them to be easily approached and handled. These symptoms, however, can also have other causes. The only way to positively confirm West...

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What is the threat from West Nile Virus (WNV) to endangered and threatened bird species?

This is an issue of great concern, as these populations are already struggling to survive in the current environment. If some of these species are more vulnerable to fatal WNV infection, WNV may ultimately lead to their extinction or significantly set back the progress of the recovery programs.

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What is the threat from West Nile Virus (WNV) to endangered and threatened bird species?

This is an issue of great concern, as these populations are already struggling to survive in the current environment. If some of these species are more vulnerable to fatal WNV infection, WNV may ultimately lead to their extinction or significantly set back the progress of the recovery programs.

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Where in the United States has West Nile Virus been detected in wildlife?

West Nile Virus has been detected in all conterminous states of the U.S., the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam have no reported cases of West Nile virus in humans or animals. Distribution maps are available from the Centers for Disease Control.Learn more: Vector-Borne Diseases

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Where in the United States has West Nile Virus been detected in wildlife?

West Nile Virus has been detected in all conterminous states of the U.S., the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam have no reported cases of West Nile virus in humans or animals. Distribution maps are available from the Centers for Disease Control.Learn more: Vector-Borne Diseases

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Are birds the only species that is susceptible to West Nile Virus infection?

West Nile Virus (WNV) has been detected in at least 48 species of mosquitoes, over 320 species of birds, at least 2 species of reptiles, and more than 25 mammalian species, including horses and humans.Birds are the natural host and reservoir of WNV. Although other animals are susceptible to WNV infection, only birds develop a high enough virus load to transmit the infection to an uninfected...

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Are birds the only species that is susceptible to West Nile Virus infection?

West Nile Virus (WNV) has been detected in at least 48 species of mosquitoes, over 320 species of birds, at least 2 species of reptiles, and more than 25 mammalian species, including horses and humans.Birds are the natural host and reservoir of WNV. Although other animals are susceptible to WNV infection, only birds develop a high enough virus load to transmit the infection to an uninfected...

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Can hunters get West Nile Virus from eating infected game birds?

Some game birds have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). However, there is no evidence of human infection by consumption of properly cooked infected game. Hunters are likely at higher risk of infection by mosquito exposure, particularly in wetland environments. Protective measures should be taken to prevent mosquito exposure while hunting. There are extremely rare cases of laboratory...

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Can hunters get West Nile Virus from eating infected game birds?

Some game birds have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). However, there is no evidence of human infection by consumption of properly cooked infected game. Hunters are likely at higher risk of infection by mosquito exposure, particularly in wetland environments. Protective measures should be taken to prevent mosquito exposure while hunting. There are extremely rare cases of laboratory...

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Can my dog or cat get West Nile Virus by eating an infected animal?

Experimentally, it was found that this might be possible. However, there has been no evidence to indicate that West Nile Virus can be naturally transmitted to cats or dogs that carry or consume infected animals. Dogs and cats can be infected with West Nile Virus through the bite of a mosquito, so minimizing their exposure to mosquitoes is recommended.

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Can my dog or cat get West Nile Virus by eating an infected animal?

Experimentally, it was found that this might be possible. However, there has been no evidence to indicate that West Nile Virus can be naturally transmitted to cats or dogs that carry or consume infected animals. Dogs and cats can be infected with West Nile Virus through the bite of a mosquito, so minimizing their exposure to mosquitoes is recommended.

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How is avian influenza spread?

State and federal government experts continue to evaluate how Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) viruses can spread and impact wild and domestic birds.The global spread of HPAI subtype H5N8 has been driven in large part by migratory waterfowl. Knowledge about migratory patterns and intercontinental associations of waterfowl, as well as genetic analyses of viral strains support the hypothesis...

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How is avian influenza spread?

State and federal government experts continue to evaluate how Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) viruses can spread and impact wild and domestic birds.The global spread of HPAI subtype H5N8 has been driven in large part by migratory waterfowl. Knowledge about migratory patterns and intercontinental associations of waterfowl, as well as genetic analyses of viral strains support the hypothesis...

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Can people get avian influenza?

While rare, human infections with avian influenza viruses have occurred. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to the general public from HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry, to be low.To date, no humans or other mammals have shown signs of disease from the HPAI viruses found in North America but field personnel handling live or...

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Can people get avian influenza?

While rare, human infections with avian influenza viruses have occurred. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to the general public from HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry, to be low.To date, no humans or other mammals have shown signs of disease from the HPAI viruses found in North America but field personnel handling live or...

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Can wild birds spread avian influenza to domestic poultry?

Although it is possible for domestic poultry to become infected with avian influenza from direct contact with wild birds, it is more likely that avian influenza viruses are spread indirectly to poultry on contaminated feed, clothing, and equipment.Agricultural agencies encourage producers to prevent wild birds and other wildlife from coming into direct contact with their poultry, and to avoid...

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Can wild birds spread avian influenza to domestic poultry?

Although it is possible for domestic poultry to become infected with avian influenza from direct contact with wild birds, it is more likely that avian influenza viruses are spread indirectly to poultry on contaminated feed, clothing, and equipment.Agricultural agencies encourage producers to prevent wild birds and other wildlife from coming into direct contact with their poultry, and to avoid...

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How do scientists study avian influenza in wild birds?

To learn more about the impacts of avian influenza on wild birds and the role wild birds may play in the spread of the virus, experts from government agencies have gathered samples from hundreds of thousands of live-captured, apparently healthy wild birds, hunter-harvested birds, and dead wild birds of all species.Testing methods include analyses of fecal samples and swabs of the bird’s trachea...

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How do scientists study avian influenza in wild birds?

To learn more about the impacts of avian influenza on wild birds and the role wild birds may play in the spread of the virus, experts from government agencies have gathered samples from hundreds of thousands of live-captured, apparently healthy wild birds, hunter-harvested birds, and dead wild birds of all species.Testing methods include analyses of fecal samples and swabs of the bird’s trachea...

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Is there a West Nile Virus vaccine available for birds?

At this time, there is not a West Nile Virus vaccine approved for use in birds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with several organizations and laboratories, is developing and testing vaccines for use in birds. Many zoos and wildlife centers have been using the Fort Dodge horse vaccine (West Nile-Innovator®) in birds. The vaccine has not been tested for use in birds...

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Is there a West Nile Virus vaccine available for birds?

At this time, there is not a West Nile Virus vaccine approved for use in birds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with several organizations and laboratories, is developing and testing vaccines for use in birds. Many zoos and wildlife centers have been using the Fort Dodge horse vaccine (West Nile-Innovator®) in birds. The vaccine has not been tested for use in birds...

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