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Broome Confirms Positive Mosquito Pool For West Nile Virus

Broome County Executive, Jeffrey P. Kraham, today reported that the New York State Health Department Laboratory has confirmed the first positive mosquito pool in Broome County for West Nile virus in 2003. "This is to be expected, based on what we are seeing in other counties throughout the state," said Mr. Kraham.

The positive pool was collected on August 15, 2003, in one of the areas where positive mosquitoes were found in 2002. "Finding this positive mosquito pool does not necessarily increase the risk of human infection," stated Claudia Edwards, Broome County Public Health Director. "Broome County Health Department will increase larval and adult mosquito surveillance, especially in those habitats known to harbor target species mosquitoes."

West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne infection that can cause encephalitis, has been found in New York State for the past four years. While the chances of a person getting encephalitis are small, West Nile virus continues to require the attention of all residents during mosquito season. Individuals age 50 and older are at highest risk. The Broome County Health Department wants you to have the information you need to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your yard and home and the likelihood of being bitten.

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.

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. Some species will bite during the daytime.

Mosquitoes can develop in any dirty, stagnant water that lasts more than four days. To reduce the mosquito population around your home, property, and place of business, Ms. Edwards advises you take the following steps to reduce or eliminate all dirty, stagnant water:

  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.
  • Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.
  • Make sure roof gutters drain properly, and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Change the water in birdbaths twice weekly.
  • Remove all discarded tires from your property.
  • Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
  • Drain water from pool covers.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.

Most mosquitoes do not transmit disease. "Although it is not necessary to limit any outdoor activities, you can help reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes," stated Ms. Edwards. In addition to reducing standing water in your yard, make sure all windows and doors have screens in good repair. To further limit your risk for West Nile virus:

  • Wear appropriate protective clothing when outdoors for long periods of time, or when mosquitoes are more active.
  • Consider using mosquito repellent containing DEET, according to directions, when it is necessary to be outdoors.

The New York State Health Department and the Broome County Health Department are using dead crow sightings, laboratory testing of birds and testing of mosquito species that transmit West Nile Virus, to help track West Nile virus and to make decisions regarding appropriate control measures. Dead crows are an indicator of West Nile virus. 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.

If you see a dead crow, contact Anne B. Clark, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Binghamton University, at 777.6228 or or the dead bird hotline at 1.866.537.BIRD (2473). Keeping track of the number of dead crows helps health officials monitor the human health risk. Note: Not all dead crows will be collected or tested!

Dead crow density is presently well below the level associated with occasional human outbreak. Using the New York State Department of Health formula based on findings throughout the state in the past three years, Broome County would have to have 1,100 dead crow reports per week to be associated with occasional human outbreak.

"Continued habitat reduction by county residents around their homes, together with use of personal protective measures, described above, are the most effective ways to "Fight the Bite" in Broome County" said Ms. Edwards.

"Dead bird sightings are very important for the Health Department to track West Nile virus activity," stated Ms. Edwards. "We appreciate the dead crow calls that Broome County residents have made in past years, and we hope residents will call Dr. Clark with dead crow sightings this year.

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!

For more information on West Nile virus, call the Broome County Health Department West Nile virus Information Line at 607.778.3911, option 4. More West Nile virus information can be found on the Health Department website at www.gobroomecounty.com/hd/.

08/07/2003 - 1:21pm