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Health  Last Updated: Feb 5th, 2009 - 07:22:39

West Nile Virus Found in Sussex Blue Jay


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A dead blue jay found Sept. 2 near Laurel is the first wild bird in Sussex County to test positive for West Nile virus this year, according to state health officials.

This is the first wild bird infected with West Nile to be found in Sussex County this year. The announcement was made Sept. 17 by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
(DNREC), the Division of Public Health (DPH), and Department of Agriculture
(DDA). The dead bird was collected by DNREC's Mosquito
Control Section.

Since both Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile virus have been found in Delaware this year,
state officials urge residents to Delawareans to continue to take the following precautions to prevent mosquito

  • Limit outdoor activities when mosquitoes are active, such as at dusk.
  • Purchase repellent containing less than 50 percent DEET for adults
    and less than 30 percent DEET for children, and apply it carefully to skin and clothing.
  • When outside, wear protective clothing such as shoes,
    long-sleeved shirts, and pants.
  • Use mosquito netting on infant carriages, strollers and playpens.
  • Keep windows and doors closed or use screens.

So far this year, West Nile virus activity in Delaware, as well as in the
mid-Atlantic and entire Northeast region, is considerably lower than in
2003. To date, only 13 wild birds have been found with West Nile this
year, with at least one wild bird from each of Delaware’s three counties,
versus 212 wild birds statewide by the end of the 2003 mosquito season.

Only three of the Mosquito Control Section’s sentinel chickens have been
found West Nile-positive thus far this year, whereas in 2003 a total of 34
sentinel chickens were virus-positive.  Last year, there were 64 horse
cases of West Nile, but none so far this year. In 2003, 17 human cases of
West Nile were found with two fatalities occurring, but so far in 2004,
there have been no human cases.

Residents are advised not to drop their guard against mosquito bites,
however, since depending upon air temperatures, disease-carrying
mosquitoes can still be quite active in Delaware throughout much of the
fall, sometimes into November.

Late summer and early autumn is also the time when West Nile virus peaks in wild bird populations due to a combination of factors.  A higher percentage of mosquitoes are now infected too, creating the possibility for more humans and horses to become infected than at any other time of year. 

Of the 13 West Nile virus-positive wild birds reported thus far for 2004, seven have been collected within the last several weeks, indicating that virus activity, while relatively low this year, is now on the upswing.

DNREC's Mosquito Control Section will continue to expand its monitoring
efforts in areas where West Nile virus has been found through nightly
light trap collections of adult mosquitoes, landing-rate counts taken by
field inspectors, and investigating any public reports of high numbers of
biting mosquitoes. 

DNREC will use trucks or aircraft to apply EPA-registered insecticides as warranted to reduce mosquito populations. In accordance with EPA determinations, these products pose no unacceptable risks to human health, wildlife or the environment. Water management practices and using insecticides to control larval mosquitoes in their breeding habitats will also continue.

Humans infected with West Nile Virus typically have only mild symptoms
similar to a mild flu, if they show any signs at all.  Rarely, humans
infected with the disease experience sudden onset of severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, confusion and muscle weakness.  Individuals with these symptoms should see their physician immediately.  There is no human vaccine against West Nile Virus. Humans can only contract the disease from mosquitoes.

To help reduce the spread of West Nile Virus, DNREC recommends residents drain mosquito-breeding areas such as upright wheelbarrows, old tires, discarded cans and barrels, flower pot liners, and clogged gutters. Water in birdbaths and children's wading pools should be changed frequently.

State Veterinarian Dr. Wesley Towers urges horse owners to contact their
veterinarian if they suspect a horse has West Nile Virus. Symptoms in
horses include listlessness, muscle spasms in the head and neck, and
hind-limb weakness. A West Nile equine vaccine is available through

DNREC encourages individuals who find dead crows, blue jays, or hawks or
owls to call the Mosquito Control Section, Monday through Friday from 8
a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the following numbers. The same numbers below should also be used to report mosquito problems.  Residents should wear gloves and avoid direct skin contact if they handle dead birds.

The phone number for Mosquito Control in Kent or Sussex County is (302)422-1512. For human health questions about West Nile Virus, call the public health department at (302) 739-5617. For questions about mosquito control, call DNREC at (302) 739-3493. For questions about West Nile in animals, call DDA at (800) 282-8685 and ask for poultry-animal health.

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