State Health Department Confirms Presence of West Nile Virus in Three Additional Counties

Albany, August 7 – Birds submitted to the New York State Department of Health for laboratory testing from Broome, Franklin, and Niagara counties were found to be infected with West Nile virus, Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., said today, meaning that the virus has now been confirmed in 19 counties in New York State and in New York City, increasing the likelihood that it is present throughout New York.

A total of five additional birds have tested positive: A crow from Broome County (city of Binghamton); a crow from Franklin County (town of Altamont) and a yellow–rumped warbler, also from Franklin county (town of Santa Clara); a crow from Niagara County (city of North Tonawanda) and a crow from Schenectady County (town of Rotterdam), the second crow to test positive from Schenectady County. Previously, a crow from the city of Schenectady was found to be infected with West Nile virus.

The State Health Department's Wadsworth Laboratory confirmed West Nile virus in the specimens, based on repeated positive results of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

Dr. Novello said, "While West Nile virus now is likely to be present throughout New York State, as of this time, the only confirmed human case this year has occurred in New York City. Still, people throughout the State need to be aware of the disease, and take steps to protect themselves, particularly those at highest risk. Individuals who are most susceptible to the virus, particularly people older than 50, should adopt personal protection measures that will help to reduce the risk of being bitten by a mosquito infected with West Nile virus."

Personal mosquito protection measures include installing or repairing screens, avoiding likely mosquito habitats, choosing clothing that provides maximum protection against biting insects and, after reading the label instructions, considering the use of an insect repellent containing DEET.

West Nile virus can cause a range of symptoms, from mild flu–like symptoms, headache and fever, to severe illness. In the most serious cases, infection can result in encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. During last year's West Nile virus outbreak, 62 people developed encephalitis and seven died. Cases of West Nile encephalitis were confirmed last year in New York City (including a visitor from Canada), Westchester County and Nassau County. Less than one percent of the people infected with the virus will have symptoms that require hospitalization.

The State Health Department continually tests for West Nile virus in encephalitis cases for which there is no known cause. Over 300 such specimens have been tested so far this year at Wadsworth Laboratory.

Birds serve as the reservoir for West Nile virus, after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Culex pipiens/restuans, and Aedes japonicus are the only species in which West Nile virus has been identified in New York State. Culex most often bite between dusk and dawn; Aedes japonicus bite during the daytime and at dusk.

On Friday, August 4, Governor Pataki directed State agencies to work together cooperatively, using their field resources, to help county health departments in the identification of dead birds, specifically American Crows, for testing. Health officials stress that dead bird reports are the best way of tracking the spread of West Nile virus, and they encourage New Yorkers who observe dead crows to contact their local health departments. Crows are particularly vulnerable, and the vast majority of infected crows die. For that reason, they are considered to be an important early warning sign that infection could be present in a specific area.

To date in 2000 the State Health Department has confirmed West Nile virus in 128 birds, and 38 mosquito pools. There has been one human case. County specific results are as follows:

Birds Counties Count
  Albany 1
  Broome 1
  Columbia 1
  Dutchess 1
  Erie 1
  Franklin 2
  Nassau 5
  Niagara 1
  NYC 31 ( Staten Island 26,
Queens 3, Manhattan 2)
  Onondaga 1
  Orange 2
  Putnam 1
  Rensselaer 1
  Rockland 48
  Schenectady 2
  Suffolk 15
  Ulster 1
  Washington 1
  Warren 1
  Westchester 11 (includes February
red–tailed hawk)
Total   128

Mosquito Pools Counties Count
  NYC 3 (Staten Island 2, Manhattan 1)
  Orange 1
  Rockland 2
  Suffolk 31
  Westchester 1
Total   38

 Human Cases   Counties Count
  NYC 1 (Staten Island)
Total   1

People with questions about West Nile virus, or reports of dead birds, are urged to contact their local health department. Additional information also is posted on the State Health Department's web site (www.health.state.ny.us).

8/7/00–97 OPA