Sussex County Delaware

First Case of West Nile
Found Downstate
West Nile Virus

Infected Bird Found
South of Camden

While saying there is no cause for alarm, DNREC officials alerted the public to the first case of West Nile Virus in downstate Delaware this year on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2002.

The virus, found in a crow collected on Aug. 8 from the Willow Grove area several miles south of Camden in Kent County, brings the total number of infected birds in the state this year to 14. None have been from Sussex County and no human cases have been reported, DNREC officials said.

With seven people dying from West Nile in Louisiana this year, DNREC officials took pains to explain that there is no cause for alarm in Delaware despite the findings. They noted that last year, West Nile was found in 34 wild birds, although all were from northern New Castle County.

They said the Willow Grove bird was the first infected bird found outside of New Castle County since the virus was detected in a Great Horned Owl from the Camden-Wyoming area in 2000.

DNREC officials reminded the public that this year's case should remind people to take additional precautionary measures even though this year's drought has kept the mosquito population "relatively low".

No human cases have been reported in the Mid-Atlantic region this year, but dead birds with the virus have been found in New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Last year there were 12 human cases of West Nile encephalitis with 2 fatalities in New Jersey, 6 human cases in Maryland with 3 fatalities, and 2 human cases in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Nationally this year, West Nile Virus has now been confirmed in either birds, animals, mosquitoes or humans in 38 states plus the District of Columbia, extending as far west as the Dakotas down to Texas, as far north as Manitoba and Quebec in Canada, and as far south as the Gulf Coast states.

The virus has spread outward through movements of migratory birds from its apparent New World point-of-origin in the New York City area in 1999.

As of Aug. 12, 145 probable/confirmed human cases of West Nile encephalitis have been reported this year with eight reported deaths, seven from Louisiana and one from Mississippi.

DNREC said its Mosquito Control Section will continue to expand its monitoring efforts in areas where positive birds were found with nightly light trap collections of adult mosquitoes, landing rate counts taken by field inspectors, and investigations of any public reports of high numbers of biting mosquitoes.

DNREC advises residents to take common-sense precautions against insect bites, such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors, applying insect repellent containing 30 percent or less DEET for adults and 10 percent or less DEET for children, and to avoid mosquito-infested areas or times of peak mosquito activity around dusk, dawn or throughout the evening.

Humans infected with West Nile Virus typically have only mild symptoms similar to a mild flu or cold, if they show any signs at all. Rarely do 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.

The State Veterinarian 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 now available through your veterinarian.

DNREC encourages individuals who find dead crows, blue jays, or birds of prey (hawks, falcons, eagles or owls) that have been dead less than 24 hours and not killed by some obvious means (run over by vehicle, electrocution, predator attack etc.) to call the Mosquito Control Section, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the numbers listed below. The first two daytime numbers below should also be used to report mosquito problems. Residents should wear gloves and avoid direct skin contact if they handle dead birds.

  • New Castle County (302) 323-4492
  • Kent or Sussex County (302) 422-1512
  • Evenings, weekends & holidays 1-800-523-3336
  • For human health questions about West Nile Virus, call DPH, (302)744-4541.
  • For questions about mosquito control, call DNREC, (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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