Health Department Begins Annual Tracking of West Nile Virus

In Vermont each year, mosquitoes are mapped out, targeted and trapped. When spotted they are swatted and squished.

The Department of Health in Vermont is interested these mosquitoes is whether or not they are infected with West Nile virus. The west Nile virus is transmitted from infected birds to certain type of mosquitoes that routinely feed on certain birds like robins, jays, crows, ravens and raptors.

Starting June 16, people are encouraged to report all dead by calling 1-800-913-1139.

From these reports the State will be able to monitor and understand more the spread of the West Nile Virus. Information received from West Nile calls and other virus surveillance activities, now in its ninth year, will inform state officials about the level of virus activity and the potential threat to human health.

"Only certain species of birds that are the best indicators of the virus will be tested, but it’s important that people report all dead birds to us," said Health Department epidemiologist Patsy Kelso. "We’ve had an excellent response from Vermonters since we started our surveillance efforts, and it’s been highly successful in raising awareness about West Nile virus."

From last years activities, 370 birds were collected. Of that number 55 were tested and 3 were positive for the West Nile Virus. Though the virus can only be caught when bitten by a mosquitoes (or if you received a blood donation from an infected person), it is advisable to wear gloves when handling dead birds.

On a positive note, there have been no human cases of West Nile virus reported by the Vermont Department of Health for the past four years. In even those bitten by an infected mosquito have a low chance of getting sick. Most people who are infected do not have any symptoms. Fewer than 1 percent of people who are infected develop severe illness, like encephalitis or meningitis. Another 20 percent of people who are infected have a milder illness. People over 50 years of age, and those with weakened immune systems, are at greatest risk for severe illness.

The first case of the West Nile virus in Vermont was first documented in October 2000. when the state bird, a hermit thrush, found dead in southern Vermont tested positive for the virus. In 2002, West Nile virus was widespread among birds and mosquitoes in Vermont. In that same year, the firs human case was documented.

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