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West Nile Virus Devastates Many US Bird Species

May 16, 2007
PARIS (AFP) - West Nile virus, unknown in North America a decade ago, is the likely culprit in the dramatic, continent-wide decline of several bird species, according to a study released Wednesday.

Crows, blue jays and even that beloved herald of spring, the American robin, have all suffered sharp drops in population that correspond in time and place with human outbreaks of the mosquito-born tropical disease, the study shows.

The American crow was hit hardest, loosing 45 percent of its numbers across the United States.

In all, 13 of 20 species studied reached 10-year population lows after a wave of West Nile virus infections among humans in 2002 and 2003, says the study, published in the British journal Nature.

Only two of the seven worst-affected species have since recovered to their previous levels.

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