Year’s First Birds Test Positive For West Nile Virus

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Contact: Patsy Tassler, Ph.D.
Vermont Department of Health

BURLINGTON, VT—Vermont health officials announced today that three birds have tested positive for West Nile virus. There have been no confirmed human cases in Vermont this year.

The positive birds include two crows collected in Windsor (Baltimore) and Rutland (Rutland) counties, and a Blue Jay from the town of Franklin in Franklin County. All three birds were originally collected the week of July 13th.

“We were expecting to find West Nile virus in birds again this year. At this point the virus has become established in the United States,” said Health Department Epidemiologist Dr. Patsy Tassler.

As part of the West Nile virus surveillance program, the state tests dead birds, traps and tests mosquitoes, and tests people and horses that have symptoms consistent with West Nile virus.

“This allows us to see how much virus there is in Vermont and where it is concentrated,” Tassler said.

Last year 125 birds from 11 different Vermont counties tested positive for West Nile virus. There were also 11 positive mosquito pools, five positive horses, and one confirmed human case in Vermont in 2002.

Dr. Tassler urges Vermonters to report dead birds by calling 1-800-913-1139 or their local district health office (8:30 a.m. - 4:30p.m weekdays). Department staff will collect and test some of the birds as part of the department’s ongoing West Nile virus surveillance efforts.

Because West Nile virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, the Health Department recommends that people limit their outdoor time at dawn and dusk, wear long sleeves and pants when possible, and use an insect repellant that contains DEET—carefully following the directions and never using it on infants.

Any puddle or standing water that lasts for more than four days can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Vermonters are asked to drain the areas where water can pool near their homes such as rain gutters, wading pools, and any other water-holding containers.

West Nile virus was first documented in the U.S. in 1999 and in Vermont in 2000.