Vermont Identifies First Positive West Nile Virus Case

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The Vermont Agency of Agriculture notified the Health Department today that Culex mosquitos trapped in the Bridport area of Addison County have been positively identified as carriers of West Nile virus.

West Nile virus, an infection spread by the bite of an infected mosquito that may cause human illness, is transmitted from infected birds to mosquitoes.

Each year, the State of Vermont conducts a statewide surveillance program that includes trapping and testing mosquitoes, testing dead birds, and testing people who have symptoms consistent with the virus. The Department of Health is testing dead robins, jays, crows, ravens, and raptors for West Nile virus.

“Culex mosquitos prefer to feed on birds rather than people or other mammals, and although we have not had a positive human case of West Nile virus for the past four years, it is important that we notify Vermonters when we identify the first positive sample,” said Patsy Kelso, an epidemiologist with the Vermont Department of Health.

Only one out of five people who are infected with the virus experience symptoms. These symptoms are most 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.

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The Department of Health is reminding Vermonters to:

· Wear long sleeves and pants and avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are active.

· Reduce mosquito breeding habitats by getting rid of standing water by draining areas where water can pool such as rain gutters, wading pools and any other water-holding containers such as old tires.

· 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.

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.

The Agency of Agriculture will continue to test mosquitoes for the virus, and the Health Department will continue its dead bird reporting program to test for the presence of the infection. Vermonters can call 1-800-913-1139 to report dead birds.

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