First Birds of the Year Test Positive for West Nile Virus

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date: August 26, 2004

Contact: Patsy Tassler Ph.D.
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7240

BURLINGTON – State health officials announced today that two birds have tested positive for West Nile virus. There have been no confirmed human cases in Vermont this year.

The positive birds were collected on August 6 in Chittenden County – a sharp-shinned hawk in Milton and a crow in Burlington.

“Last year, the first positive birds were collected the week of July 13. We expect to find West Nile virus in birds every year now,” said Health Department Epidemiologist Dr. Patsy Tassler. “At this point, the virus is well established in the United States.”

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

“Doing this type of surveillance allows us to keep track of how much active West Nile is in Vermont and where it is concentrated,” Tassler said.

Last year, 116 birds from 13 counties tested positive for the virus. There were also four positive horses and three confirmed human cases in 2003.

Vermonters are urged to report dead birds by calling 1-800-913-1139 or their local district health office ( 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. weekdays). Department staff will collect and test some of the birds for its West Nile virus surveillance efforts.

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 manufacturer’s instructions. Never use DEET on infants.

“It is important that Vermonters drain areas where water can collect such as old tires, rain gutters and any other containers that can hold water,” Tassler said.

More information about West Nile virus can be found at the Vermont Department of Health website www.HealthyVermonters.info.