State Health Department Announces West Nile Virus Detected In Nine More Birds and One More Mosquito Pool

Dr. Novello Urges Public to Use Common Sense Precautionary Measures

Albany, July 21, 2000 – New York State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H. today announced that the State Health Department has identified evidence of West Nile virus in nine additional birds and a mosquito pool collected in Orange County.

Considering the previous discovery of infected birds in both New York and New Jersey and two mosquito pools in New York, in conjunction with the enhanced surveillance and control activities, it is not surprising that additional birds and mosquito pools are testing positive for West Nile virus.

The new positive birds come from Rockland County (five crows), Westchester County (one blue jay), Richmond County (Staten Island – one crow and one house sparrow), and Queens (one blue jay).

"While birds and mosquito pools continue to test positive for West Nile, the positive news is that we have not yet had a single human test positive for the virus," Dr. Novello said. "If the public continues to heed our advice and use common sense preventive measures such as wearing long–sleeve shirts, long pants, and use mosquito repellent with DEET when in wooded areas, they can significantly reduce their risk of being infected by a mosquito bite."

With the addition of nine new positive birds, it brings the number of birds testing positive for West Nile virus to 29 for the year, including 20 American crows, six blue jays, two red tailed hawks and one house sparrow. The birds are from Rockland (17), Suffolk (three), Westchester (four), Staten Island (four) and Queens (one).

To date this year, the Health Department has tested specimens from more than 800 birds of different species, more than 1,800 pools of mosquitoes from different regions and more than 238 humans. There have been no positive human cases so far. The Department is in the process of testing specimens collected on the 71–year old male from Staten Island. Preliminary tests performed by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hyigene were negative for West Nile virus. Tests to confirm the NYC DOH results are being done by CDC and the State Wadsworth Lab and should be known by Monday, July 24.

"Our aggressive surveillance and prevention efforts are finding the virus early so that proactive and preventive measures can be taken to reduce the impact of the virus this summer," Dr. Novello said. "The CDC, the State and localities will continue to monitor the affected areas. We will also need the assistance of the public to help us eliminate mosquito–breeding sites by removing stagnant water from around their homes and workplaces. Personal protection measures are imperative to reduce exposure to mosquitoes during the day and at night, if you are in an affected area."

PCR DNA preliminary tests indicate that a mosquito pool collected in Orange County is positive for the West Nile virus. This is third mosquito pool testing positive (Suffolk and Westchester counties are the other two) out of more than 1,800 tested. The Orange County pool totaled 11 mosquitoes of the Aedes japonicus species. The revelation that the Aedes japonicus was infected with the virus was announced on July 17. Previously reported West Nile virus PCR positive mosquito pools in Suffolk and Westchester counties have now been confirmed by cell culture. The Orange County positive pool reinforces that personal protection measures must be adhered to during the day, as well as night, because the Aedes japonicus mosquito is believed to feed during the day.

This Aedes japonicus mosquito originated in Asia (Japan, Korea) and is suspected to have arrived in the Northeast in the past few years in shipments of used tires. Since then, it has spread rapidly in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Its role in the transmission of the West Nile virus is unknown at this time. Aedes japonicus, different from Culex pipiens, is likely to be a daytime feeder and found in wooded areas. Larvae are found in small water containers such as rock holes, discarded tires or other containers. Culex mosquitoes are the mosquitoes most associated with West Nile virus, and are most active and feed between dusk and dawn.

Following are reminders of important ways to reduce breeding sites of the mosquitoes 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.

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).

7/21/00–87 OPA