In addition to human encephalitis and meningitis cases, the West Nile (WN) virus outbreak in the summer and fall of 1999 in New York State resulted in bird deaths in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. From August to December 1999, 295 dead birds were laboratory-confirmed with WN virus infection; 262 (89%) were American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos). The New York State Department of Health received reports of 17,339 dead birds, including 5,697 (33%) crows; in Connecticut 1,040 dead crows were reported. Bird deaths were critical in identifying WN virus as the cause of the human outbreak and defining its geographic and temporal limits. If established before a WN virus outbreak, a surveillance system based on bird deaths may provide a sensitive method of detecting WN virus.
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Crow deaths as a sentinel surveillance system for West Nile virus in the northeastern United States, 1999