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Interim Guidance for States Conducting Avian Mortality Surveillance for West Nile Virus (WNV) and/or Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza Virus

This website is archived and is no longer being maintained or updated. For updated information on avian influenza, see the CDC Avian Influenza website and the World Health Organization (WHO) Avian Influenza Situation Update page.

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This guidance, which is directed to state health departments, supplements current Guidelines for WNV Surveillance, Prevention, and Control Learn more about Adobe Acrobat Reader and An Early Detection System for Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza in Wild Migratory Birds: U.S. Interagency Strategic Plan Learn more about Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Surveillance of dead birds for WNV has proven useful for the early detection of WNV in the United States. In recent months, it has also proven useful for the early detection of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza A (HPAI H5N1, hereafter referred to as H5N1 virus) in Europe. Given the potential for H5N1 to infect wild birds in North America in the future, the following interim guidance is offered to support the efforts of states conducting avian mortality surveillance.

General Considerations for States Conducting Avian Mortality Surveillance

Infection Control and Health and Safety Precautions

These guidelines are intended for any person handling dead birds. The risk of infection with WNV from such contact is small. The risk of infection with H5N1 from handling dead birds is difficult to quantify and is likely to vary with each situation. Risk is related to the nature of the work environment, the number of birds to be collected, and the potential for aerosolization of bird feces, body fluids, or other tissues. The most important factor that will influence the degree of infection risk from handling wild birds is whether H5N1 has been reported in the area. Local public health officials can be consulted to help in selecting the most appropriate PPE for the situation.

General Precautions for Collection of Single Dead Birds
(These precautions are applicable to employees as well as the general public)

When collecting dead birds, the risk of infection from WNV, H5N1, or any other pathogen may be eliminated by avoiding contamination of mucous membranes, eyes, and skin by material from the birds. This can be accomplished by eliminating any direct contact with dead birds via use of the following safety precautions:

Additional Precautions for Personnel Tasked with Collecting Dead Birds in Higher-Risk Settings (e.g., when collecting large numbers or in confined indoor spaces, particularly once H5N1 has been confirmed in an area)

*Recommendations for PPE Disinfection

For machine-washable, reusable PPE: Disinfect PPE in a washing machine with detergent in a normal wash cycle. Adding bleach will increase the speed of viral inactivation as will hot water but detergent alone in cold water will be effective. Follow manufacturer recommendations for drying the PPE.

Non machine-washable, reusable PPE should be cleaned following the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning.

Laboratory Biosafety Recommendations

Laboratory handling of routine diagnostic specimens of avian carcasses requires a minimum of BSL-2 laboratory safety precautions. However, if either WNV or H5N1 infection of the specimens is suspected on the basis of previous surveillance findings, at a minimum BSL-3 precautions are advisable. Consult your institutional biosafety officer for specific recommendations. Biosafety levels are described in Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories: Section III—Laboratory Biosafety Level Criteria.

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Page last modified August 23, 2006

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