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Broome County Confirms Presence Of West Nile Virus In 2004

BINGHAMTON, NY - Claudia Edwards, Broome County Public Health Director reported that the New York State Health Department Laboratory has confirmed evidence of West Nile virus in a crow for the first time this year in Broome County. "This is to be expected, based on previous history of West Nile virus in Broome County and in fact, New York State", said Broome County Public Health Director, Claudia Edwards. "This positive result does not necessarily increase the risk of human infection, but it is a reminder that West Nile virus continues to have an impact and there are things Broome County residents can do to avoid exposure to West Nile virus infection."

West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne infection that can cause encephalitis (swelling of the brain), is now found across the United States. Most WNV infected humans have no symptoms, but a small number of people may develop flu like symptoms such as headache, fever, body ache, rash and swollen lymph glands. Less than 1% of infected people develop severe illness. While the chances of a person getting encephalitis are small, West Nile virus continues to require our attention during mosquito season. Individuals age 50 and older are at highest risk for developing serious illness.

Mosquitoes are small flying insects that feed on human and animal blood or plant juices. Only female mosquitoes bite to get a blood meal for their growing eggs. "Mosquitoes are generally considered a nuisance pest, but occasionally can transmit disease," said Claudia Edwards, Public Health Director of the Broome County Health Department. "There are about 70 different species of mosquitoes in New York State, yet only a handful of them can transmit West Nile virus," she said.

"Because mosquitoes spread West Nile virus, protecting yourself against mosquito bites is the best way to avoid getting infected," said Ms. Edwards. Many mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile virus lay their eggs in dirty, stagnant water around the home. "Weeds, tall grass and shrubbery provide an outdoors home for adult mosquitoes, which may also enter houses through unscreened windows or doors, or broken screens," noted Ms. Edwards. Most mosquitoes are active between dusk and dawn when the air is calm, and that is when the females are most likely to bite. Mosquitoes can develop in any dirty, stagnant water that sits for more than four days. To reduce the mosquito population around your home, property, and place of business, Ms. Edwards reminds residents to get rid of standing water in artificial containers such as rain barrels, rain gutters, buckets, abandoned tires, swimming pools, swimming pool covers and birdbaths.

"Most mosquitoes do not transmit disease," said Ms. Edwards, "but there are things you can do to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes." In addition to reducing standing water in your yard, make sure all windows and doors have screens in good repair.

  • Minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active; or
  • Wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time, or when mosquitoes are more active; or
  • Consider using mosquito repellent with DEET, according to directions, when it is necessary to be outdoors for long periods of time when mosquitoes are most active.

Dead crows are an early sign of West Nile virus activity in an area. The American or Common Crow is a large, chunky, completely black bird measuring between 17 and 21 inches from the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail. Crows have a wide, thick black beak. Grackles, blackbirds and starlings are often mistaken for crows but all three are less than half the size of crows.

This year, Dr. Clark, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, at Binghamton University will be conducting research on ill Crow behavior and will be collecting ill and dead Crow, or Blue Jay, reports from residents. Broome County residents can report ill or dead crows by contacting Dr. Clark at Binghamton University by telephone at 607.777.6228 or e-mail at crowrsch@binghamton.edu. "Dead bird sightings are very important for the Health Department to track WNV activity," stated Ms. Edwards. "We appreciate the dead bird calls that Broome County residents have made in past years and we hope residents will continue to call with dead bird sightings, however as in past years, not all birds will be collected or tested" she noted. Bird specimens collected and calls reporting dead birds will be recorded for research purposes only. Residents can report other types of dead birds to the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Service Hotline toll free, at 1.866.537.2473.

After reporting a dead crow to Professor Clark at Binghamton University, residents should wear gloves to bag the dead crow and place it in the garbage for regular pick-up.

For more information on West Nile Virus, call the Broome County Health Department West Nile Virus Information Line at 607.778.3911, option 3. More West Nile virus information can be found on the Health Department website at www.goBroomeCounty.com/hd/.

Broome County residents play an important role in the fight against West Nile virus by reducing breeding habitats around their homes and property and staying informed. Watch for notices of town and village tire collection days this season. Let's all work together to FIGHT THE BITE!

08/14/2004 - 3:10pm