Wildlife Encounters - 9th - 12th grade
Lesson 4: Wildlife Rehabilitation
  • Key Words

Disease Monitoring

Disease monitoring and disease surveillance


Disease monitoring is assessing individual animals for disease. In wildlife rehabilitation, disease monitoring of individual animals can help provide clues to the health in the entire wild population. It may serve as an early warning of a population problem that needs to be investigated further.

If there is concern about disease in a population, then disease surveillance is done. In wildlife medicine, disease surveillance is the active tracking of disease spread through wild populations. Disease surveillance helps limit the impact of particularly dangerous or zoonotic diseases.

How Crows and a Wildlife Vet Solved the Medical Mystery of West Nile Virus

In the summer of 1999, some people in New York City became very sick with high fever, confusion, and weakness. At the same time, the city's crows started to die after showing similar signs. Was there a connection?

Public health officials and medical experts searched for the cause of this mysterious illness, but could not find an answer. Scientists discovered many mosquitoes near the homes of the sick people and believed that the mosquitoes might be carrying a pathogen that caused people to become sick when bitten. Without many other clues, city officials sprayed truckloads of insect repellent around the city hoping to keep others from getting sick.

A wildlife veterinarian who worked at the Bronx Zoo knew that there was still a piece of the puzzle missing. The virus suspected of causing the illness in people usually didn't cause illness in birds. So, why were the crows dying? Dr. McNamara, the wildlife vet, performed examinations on the dead crows and was the first person to discover that a new disease had made its way to North America. That disease was West Nile Virus. Through her work with the crows and other zoo animals, Dr. McNamara helped us understand the disease caused by West Nile Virus.