Weather prompts early testing for West Nile virus

April 15, 2012 at 07:18 AM

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois health officials are starting their West Nile virus surveillance program two weeks earlier than usual because of the weather.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Friday that it will accept dead birds for testing Monday. The program usually begins May 1.

Health officials want to discover any early West Nile activity that could be caused by the mild winter and warm spring.

Last year, 34 Illinois residents contracted West Nile virus disease, and three died.

People who see a sick or dying crow, blue jay, robin or other perching bird can alert their local health department, which will determine if the bird will be picked up for testing.