West Nile Virus (WNV)

The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause flu-like symptoms and in rare cases can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Last year was the first time the virus was ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere and was found in the New York City metropolitan area. In July and August 2000, the virus was identified in birds found in Onondaga, Broome, and Tompkins Counties. There is a risk that the virus may soon be found in Cortland County. Precautions should be taken to reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.


West Nile Virus in Birds


  • West Nile Virus is fatal to some birds, especially crows and blue jays, and dead birds are often used as an indicator when the virus enters a geographic area.
  • Health Department Staff will record all incidents of ill or dead birds. Crows and Blue Jays that have died within the last 24 hours will be picked-up and sent in for testing for West Nile Virus. (Unless it died of an obvious cause such as trauma from being hit by a car.)
  • If the bird cannot be picked-up right away, use a shovel or wear gloves to place it in a refrigerator or ice chest that is not used for food.
  • If that is not possible, place plastic bags of ice over the dead bird and cover it with a bucket until the Health Department staff can arrive. (There is not evidence that West Nile Virus is spread directly from dead birds to humans. However, bare-handed contact with dead animals should always be avoided.)
  • If the bird is not going to be sent in for testing you can bury it or double bag it and place it in the garbage.

Report all dead birds found in your yard to the Cortland County Health Department at 753-5035 or report via our website.

Neighborhood Cooperation


Mosquito control begins at the neighborhood level. Reducing mosquito breeding sites not only reduces mosquitoes in your yard, but your neighbor's yard too. Common neighborhood breeding sites include tires and stagnant wading/swimming pools. Whenever a potential breeding site is reported to the Cortland County Health Department, we will be sending the resident/owner this information sheet on mosquito control in the hopes of obtaining voluntary cooperation in eliminating breeding sites on the property.

To eliminate mosquito breeding sites around your home:
  • Dispose of all water holding containers where water can stagnate.
  • Remove all discarded tires on the property.
  • Drill holes to drain water from recycling containers that are kept outdoors.
  • Make sure roof gutters drain properly, and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Change the water in bird baths three times per week or put them away for the season.
  • Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
  • Prevent pools from stagnating.
  • Drain water from pool covers.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate stagnant water on your property.
Reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes:
  • Reduce or eliminate all stagnant water in your yard.
  • Make sure all windows and doors have screens and keep all screens repaired.
  • Wear long sleeve shirts and pants in the evening if you are outside.
  • Use insect repellent in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
Fight the Bite!

Additional Information


For more information about the West Nile Virus, please contact the Cortland County Health Department at 753-5035.