PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria City/County Health Department will begin checking insects and birds for the West Nile virus, a process going through mid-October.

The virus is transmitted through mosquitos that had fed off an infected bird, the department said. There are plans to set mosquito traps throughout Peoria County to watch for areas of breeding and then test those mosquitoes for West Nile beginning on May 31.

The department is also collecting and accepting dead birds with an emphasis on crows and bluejays to test for evidence of the virus in the area. Birds must have died within 48 hours, not have started to decompose or emit a strong odor, and have not been damaged by scavengers.

Officials warn the birds could also be infected with other things so they urged people not to handle specimens with bare hands. All collected birds should be double-wrapped in plastic garbage bags.

If a dead bird is found between now and October 15 and appears to have died of natural causes, report it to the Peoria City/County Health Department at (309) 679-6161.

Health department officials say the best way to avoid or prevent West Nile is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to prevent mosquito bites

That involved using bug spray, avoiding times when the bugs are out, and eliminating areas where mosquitos can breed.

Common West Nile virus symptoms include fever, nausea, headache, and muscle aches. Symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks. However, four out of five people infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms. In rare cases, severe illness including meningitis or encephalitis, or even death, can occur. People older than 50 are at higher risk for severe illness from West Nile virus.

Vector surveillance will not include testing for avian flu. For more information regarding avian flu, visit the CDC website at

For more information on public health issues pertaining to mosquitoes and ticks, visit the Peoria City/County Health Department’s website at or call our Environmental Health Team at (309) 679-6161.