Vermonters Encourged to Report Dead Birds

Date: June 17, 2005

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

BURLINGTON – Dead birds can tell tales, if the birds are reported to the Vermont Department of Health (VDH). For the past five years, the state has collected and tested dead birds for West Nile virus, a disease contracted from the bite of an infected mosquito.

Vermonters are encouraged to report dead bird sightings to the Vermont Department of Health as part of the state’s disease surveillance efforts.

“West Nile Virus is well established in the United States and each year we carefully monitor dead bird reports to track the activity of the virus,” said Health Department Epidemiologist Patsy Tassler, Ph. D. “Monitoring bird deaths helps us to prevent human cases of the virus by identifying local areas of increased virus activity.”
Vermont’s first human case was documented in 2002, three cases were reported in 2003, and no human cases were reported last year.

The Agency of Agriculture is trapping mosquitoes to test for the virus. Even if an infected mosquito bites you, chances of illness are low, since 80 percent of people who are infected have no symptoms. About 20 percent of people who are infected become ill. The illness can range from mild to severe. Less than 1 percent of people who are infected, usually those over age 50, develop encephalitis or meningitis.

If you see a dead bird, please call and report your sighting to the local Department of Health district office or call 1-800-913-1139 (8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday). Some dead birds will be collected and tested for the virus.

The Health Department recommends that people limit their outdoor time at dawn and dusk to prevent mosquito bites, wear long sleeves and pants when possible, and use an insect repellant. In addition to DEET, two new active ingredients are also effective – Picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using insect repellents. Never use DEET on infants.

“It is important that Vermonters drain areas where water can collect and become mosquito breeding areas 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.