More West Nile Found In Franklin County Tests

For immediate release:
August 22, 2002

News Media Contact: Ann Fingar, M.D.
State Epidemiologist
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7240

Burlington, VT—Vermont health officials announced today that two more dead birds, a robin found in Bakersfield and a crow in Swanton, have tested positive for West Nile virus. These findings come the same day as Vermont agricultural officials announced the state’s first case of a horse confirmed with West Nile, and two weeks after a dead blue jay from Highgate was confirmed to be positive.

All the positive samples originated in Franklin County.

Since September 2000, when a hermit thrush found in Putney was confirmed positive, a total of four birds in Vermont have been confirmed positive for the West Nile virus. During 2002, 268 birds have tested negative for the virus, three have tested positive, and test results on 249 are pending. No human cases of West Nile have been documented in Vermont.

The mosquito-borne illness first appeared in the United States in 1999 in New York City, and has spread north, south and west as far as the Dakotas, Wyoming, Colorado and Texas.

“We have been looking for West Nile virus, we have expected it, and now we are finding it and we are prepared to deal with it,” said Dr. Ann Fingar, state epidemiologist at the Vermont Department of Health.

Humans can get West Nile virus (WNV) only from the bite of an infected mosquito. “Because the mosquito breeding and biting season is not yet over, we urge people to take common sense precautions to protect themselves and their families,” Dr. Fingar said.

Across the country to date, 1,916 dead crows and 1,567 other dead birds with WNV infection have been reported from 38 states, New York City, and the District of Columbia; 256 WNV infections in mammals (all but one in horses) have been reported from 19 states. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 270 human cases with laboratory evidence of recent WNV infection during 2002.

The Health Department recommends that people limit outdoor time at dawn and dusk and other times when mosquitoes are out, wear long sleeves and pants when possible outside, use insect repellant that contains DEET (carefully following product directions and never using it on infants), and reducing the presence of standing water.

Any puddle or standing water that lasts for more than four days can become a breeding ground, so people should empty clogged gutters, change the water in the bird bath regularly, turn over the wading pool or wheelbarrow and get rid of old tires.

The Health Department continues to ask residents who see a dead bird to report it by calling their local Health Department Office. The locations and phone numbers are on the web at www.HealthyVermonters.info., along with more information about West Nile virus.