State Health Department Goes "Hollywood" to Fight The Bite

Albany, July 5, 2000 – The silver screen presents a golden opportunity to reinforce the message that New Yorkers need to continue to "Fight the Bite" to prevent West Nile virus, State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. said today.

The three–month–old "Fight the Bite" campaign encourages people to protect themselves from the mosquito–borne virus that caused 62 cases of encephalitis and seven deaths last year by reducing or eliminating standing water around their homes where mosquitoes breed. The advice is especially timely, given the recent discovery that crows in Rockland County and in Bergen County, New Jersey, were infected with the virus, indicating infected mosquitoes may be nearby. Starting June 30, the "Fight the Bite" message will be carried on 201 movie screens from Dutchess County to Long Island, as part of a multi–media effort funded through New York State's West Nile virus response plan. The movie theater campaign will run for four weeks during the July "blockbuster" cinema season.

"New Yorkers are responding enthusiastically to our advice that they pick up old tires and other debris that can collect stagnant water around their homes and, in so doing, reduce their exposure to mosquito breeding sites and mosquito bites," Dr. Novello said. "It's important, though, that we reinforce that message at every opportunity so we're putting it up there on the big screen, larger than life."

In addition to the movie theater campaign, State Health officials are purchasing television air time to broadcast a "Fight the Bite" announcement. The message, which features several children and adults working together to remove standing water and items that collect water from around the home, has been running as a public service announcement since late March. Radio PSAs, brochures, fact sheets, stickers and posters and other educational materials also support the Fight the Bite public awareness effort.

Following are important ways to reduce breeding sites of the Culex pipiens mosquito (also called the Northern House Mosquito) that is most closely associated with transmission of West Nile virus:

  • Replace or repair broken screens and install new screens as needed;
  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar outdoor items that hold water;
  • Remove all discarded tires from your property;
  • Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors;
  • Clean clogged rain gutters and make sure they continue to work properly;
  • Turn over wheelbarrows and wading pools when not in use;
  • Change water in bird baths at least every four days;
  • Clear vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds;
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs;
  • Drain water from pool covers; and
  • Use landscaping to eliminate low spots where standing water accumulates.

Health officials also encourage people to try to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Culex mosquitoes are most active and feeding between dusk and dawn, so if West Nile virus is found in a specific area, minimize outdoor activities during those hours. Take personal protection measures, as well, including wearing shoes and socks, long pants and a long–sleeved short when you will be outside for a long period of time. Consider applying a mosquito repellent containing DEET, but use the product properly and be aware of the possible adverse health effects.

More information about West Nile virus, personal protection measures, dead bird reporting and New York State's "Fight the Bite" campaign is posted on the State Health Department's website (www.health.state.ny.us).

7/5/00–79 OPA