Dove season adds to talk of West Nile

Thursday, August 29, 2002

The West Nile virus has dominated health-related news coverage in Missouri recently, but health and hunting officials say the opening of dove season Sunday is adding a new dimension to the issue.

Shirley Renaud with the Cape Girardeau County Health Department recently wrote Dr. Howard Pue, chief of the communicable disease and veterinary section of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, to ask about any potential dangers in eating dove meat.

Pue responded that no data suggests that the virus is transmitted by any means other than the bite of an infective mosquito. However, he recommended that when cleaning any game, gloves should be worn to minimize exposure to blood and other fluids, to avoid contact between the brain and spinal cord and meat, "cook meat thoroughly, and avoid eating brains, as called for in some ethnic recipes. Hunters' biggest risk of WNV is from getting bitten by a mosquito, so wear protective clothing, use repellants, etc."

Avid hunter and Jackson USA newspaper columnist Allen Morris said rumors about getting West Nile virus from doves are "blowing things way out." Both he and Pue direct those with questions to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' Web page at

The Web page is set up as question-and-answer and includes the following:

What is West Nile virus?

The West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes to birds, various animals, and humans. Most persons infected with this virus show no symptoms, although occasional infections can result in serious illness and even death.

What kinds of birds carry the West Nile virus? Any wild or domestic bird can be infected with this virus, but some species are particularly susceptible to disease and death from this infection. These species include crows, blue jays, and birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and eagles. However, based on current understanding of this virus, it appears that the only significant risk to humans is through the bite of an infective mosquito.

Where did West Nile virus come from? West Nile virus has been commonly found in humans, birds, and other animals in Africa, Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and the Middle East, but until 1999 had not previously been documented in the Western Hemisphere.

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