Outbreak of mysterious bird illness subsides, but questions remain

Virginia News

A mysterious ailment has sickened and killed thousands of songbirds in several mid-Atlantic states since late spring 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources says reports of a disease that spread throughout bird populations in the state have dropped 50 percent since a peak in early June.

Affected birds displayed eye issues such as swelling and discharge, as well as neurological symptoms. According to DWR, there have been no reports of any hazard to human or livestock health.

In early June, the Animal Rescue League of Arlington was receiving an average of 17 reports a day of sick and deceased birds. Although that number has dropped to an average of just 1.5 per day in July, DWR said they’re still not sure what caused the outbreak.

“Diagnostic investigations of this nature can be prolonged, due to the wide range of testing possibilities, and because of this no definitive cause(s) of illness or death have been determined at this time,” DWR said in a statement.

In the meantime, the department is recommending that bird feeders be removed if there are multiple dead birds in a location over a short period of time. And they recommend that in affected areas, bird baths and feeders should be cleaned with a 10% bleach solution every two weeks.

If you encounter a sick or dead bird, you can file a report with DWR here, and find additional information on the outbreak here.

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