State Health Commissioner Announces West Nile Virus Prevention Education Campaign for 2001

Counties to Receive $1 Million in Grants to Support WNV Prevention, Surveillance

Albany, April 24, 2001 – New York State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. today announced that counties will receive a total of $1 million in grant funding to help them prevent the mosquito–borne West Nile virus. The money, which can be used for West Nile virus surveillance and education initiatives, is in addition to $21.9 million for local West Nile virus control activities proposed by Governor George E. Pataki in the State Budget to cover 2000 – 2001 costs.

"Early, repeated and effective prevention strategies are crucial to reducing human risk from West Nile virus," Dr. Novello said. "Now that spring is here, we are calling on all New Yorkers to help us limit the impact of West Nile virus by identifying places on their property where water collects and continuing to eliminate them before they become mosquito breeding sites. The grants we are giving counties will help them get this message out loud and clear."

The $1 million, part of a $3.9 million grant obtained by Governor Pataki from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will be distributed among counties throughout the State except for New York City, which was awarded a separate grant from CDC. The Governor has aggressively pursued federal funding to alleviate the burden posed by West Nile virus on New York taxpayers.

"Since fall of 1999, New York has been the epicenter of the West Nile virus in the western hemisphere and, through our comprehensive surveillance and response efforts, we have helped the entire nation learn valuable lessons about this emerging health threat," Dr. Novello said. "We will continue to work closely with our partners in the federal government to advance the scientific understanding of West Nile virus and to protect all our citizens."

William Cooke, Director of Governmental Relations for Audubon New York said, "Audubon New York continues to work closely with the Department of Health on West Nile virus issues related to pesticides and the environment. We are very thankful that Governor Pataki was able to secure these additional funds for counties across the State. This funding is critical to local governments as they prepare for this year's prevention and educational activities to help reduce exposure to West Nile virus."

Sarah J. Meyland, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, "The announcement today that counties will be receiving funding specially aimed at increasing public education is exactly the right approach for preparing residents for another season where West Nile virus may be an issue. Providing information that will help individuals take precautions for their families is a much better way to promote reduced risk from this new virus without increasing the need for chemical campaigns against mosquitoes. We thank the Governor and the Department of Health for advancing this common sense approach."

During 2000, 14 New Yorkers (all from New York City) were hospitalized after being infected by West Nile Virus, one of whom later died. In 1999, when the virus first appeared, 62 people in New York became seriously ill and seven died. Health officials believe that the intensive West Nile virus prevention effort mounted last year contributed to the lower incidence of serious illness and death.

Governor Pataki has directed the Department to conduct a $500,000 West Nile virus prevention and education campaign this spring and summer to urge New Yorkers to reduce or eliminate standing water on their residential or commercial properties where many species of mosquitoes lay their eggs. Containers such as flower pots, discarded tires, rain barrels, or any item in which water collects, such as children's toys, all serve as mosquito breeding sites. Even a bottle cap can collect enough water for a female mosquito to lay her eggs.

The "Fight the Bite" mass media campaign also will encourage people to report ill or dead crows, since they can indicate the presence of West Nile virus–infected mosquitoes in a particular area. It will focus on ways people can prevent mosquito bites, especially individuals age 50 or older who are at the highest risk of serious illness or death from West Nile virus.

Dr. Novello noted that although many parents are worried about the risk from West Nile virus to children, current research suggests they are not in a high risk group. One in 150 people who are infected will become seriously ill; others will have mild "flu–like" symptoms or none at all. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus infection. If the disease progresses into encephalitis, hospitalization and supportive treatment will be necessary.

An information campaign also will be targeted at health care providers, as part of the State's heightened surveillance for possible human cases of encephalitis caused by West Nile virus. Providers will be reminded about the requirement to report cases of suspected pesticide poisoning to the State's Pesticide Poisoning Registry.

Research indicates that during the months of August and September the risk of human illness from West Nile virus increases. This is because the virus must amplify through a cycle of infection that includes mosquitoes, birds and small mammals before it reaches a level that poses a human health threat. By intervening now, to clean up standing water where mosquitoes breed, and continuing these prevention strategies throughout the spring and summer, individuals can dramatically reduce the human health threat. Man–made collections of stagnant water such as unchlorinated swimming pools, dirty bird baths, discarded tin cans, old tires and similar items in which water can accumulate all must be addressed:

  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots and similar water–holding containers.
  • Remove all discarded tires on your property. Used tires are the most common mosquito breeding ground.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.
  • Make sure 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 bird baths.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
  • Drain water from pool covers.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate stagnant water that collects on your property; clean up leaf litter and similar organic debris.

To keep mosquitoes from getting inside the home, persons should make sure that all their doors and windows have screens and that the screens are in good repair.

Effective mosquito prevention will also reduce the need for more aggressive strategies, such as spraying, later on. New York State's 2001 West Nile Virus Response Plan recommends spraying for control of adult mosquitoes only when there is an imminent threat to human health.

"These simple, common–sense interventions to reduce or eliminate places where mosquitoes breed on your own property will help protect you, your family and your neighbors from possible serious illness," Dr. Novello said. "Let's fight West Nile virus, right from the start!"

Following are counties and the grant amount they will receive to support their West Nile virus education and surveillance activities:

County $ Amount
Albany 20,000
Allegany 5,000
Broome 20,000
Cattaraugus 10,000
Cayuga 10,000
Chautauqua 20,000
Chemung 10,000
Chenango 10,000
Clinton 10,000
Columbia 10,000
Cortland 5,000
Delaware 5,000
Dutchess 20,000
Erie 60,000
Essex 5,000
Franklin 10,000
Fulton 10,000
Genesee 10,000
Greene 5,000
Hamilton 5,000
Herkimer 10,000
Jefferson 20,000
Lewis 5,000
Livingston 10,000
Madison 10,000
Monroe 60,000
Montgomery 5,000
Nassau 80,000
Niagara 20,000
Oneida 20,000
Onondaga 40,000
Ontario 20,000
Orange 40,000
Orleans 5,000
Oswego 20,000
Otsego 10,000
Putnam 10,000
Rensselaer 20,000
Rockland 20,000
St. Lawrence 20,000
Saratoga 20,000
Schenectady 20,000
Schoharie 5,000
Schuyler 5,000
Seneca 5,000
Steuben 10,000
Suffolk 80,000
Sullivan 10,000
Tioga 10,000
Tompkins 10,000
Ulster 20,000
Warren 10,000
Washington 10,000
Wayne 10,000
Westchester 60,000
Wyoming 5,000
Yates 5,000

The 2001 West Nile Virus Response Plan is posted on the New York State Department of Health website: http://nyhealth.gov/nysdoh/westnile/index.htm.

4/24/01–42–OPA