If you're looking for a new hobby that's both beneficial to society and a little bit morbid, Madison County health officials have an offer you don't want to miss. Between now and October 15, they want you to be on the look out for dead birds. For science, of course.
I know what you're thinking, and the answer is no: Madison County does not have a top secret Frankenbird program. But health officials do want to track the progress of West Nile Virus, which has been found already this year in northern Illinois.
The virus is spread by mosquito bites, and can be lethal to human beings
. Birds and horses are also susceptible, with birds in particular falling prey to the virus
. The large number of birds extant -- and the general ease of transporting a dead bird as opposed to a dead horse -- make them a convenient way to track the spread of the disease.
So if you come across a dead bird that has no obvious external injuries (bullet holes or talon rents, for example) and has not been scavenged by another animal, you can do society a solid by calling the Madison County Health department at 618-296-6079 to arrange for the bird corpse to be collected and tested.