Vermont begins 10th year of testing dead birds for West Nile Virus

For Immediate Release: June 22, 2009
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – The State of Vermont will again be tracking the spread of West Nile virus through an annual, statewide surveillance program that includes testing dead birds, trapping and testing mosquitoes and testing people who have symptoms consistent with the virus.

West Nile virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Vermont has had a total of four human cases of West Nile virus detected since it started a comprehensive surveillance program in 2000, including one case in 2002 and three cases in 2003.

“Each year we see a heightened awareness about West Nile virus and people taking precautions, such as getting rid of standing water in rain gutters or old tires where mosquitoes routinely breed,” said Patsy Kelso, state epidemiologist for the Vermont Department of Health.

Symptoms of West Nile virus are often mild, but can include high fever and paralysis. Approximately 1 percent of people who are infected develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system, such as encephalitis or meningitis, which can be fatal.

The Department of Health is urging Vermonters to:
· Wear long sleeves and pants and avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are active.
· Get rid of standing water where water can pool such as wading pools and any other water-holding containers.
· Use repellents containing no more than 30 percent DEET on adults and no more than 10 percent on children age 3 and older.
· Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

During the 2009 mosquito season, the public is encouraged to report all dead birds by calling the central dead bird reporting line at the Vermont Department of Health 1-800-913-1139, Monday to Friday 8 a.m.– 4:30 p.m.

The West Nile virus season peaks in late summer and runs through October. There is a risk of West Nile virus as long as mosquitoes are active.

Monitoring bird deaths helps to prevent human cases of the virus by identifying local areas of increased virus activity. The surveillance plan is coordinated by the Vermont Department of Health and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets. The Agency of Agriculture is responsible for mosquito trapping and testing. They will also be conducting mosquito surveillance for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, another mosquito-borne disease that has never been detected in Vermont, although it has been found in all the surrounding states.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the Vermont Department of Health website: healthvermont.gov.

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