State Health Officials Announce Probable Human Case of West Nile Virus

For immediate release:
September 10, 2002

News Media Contact:
Linda Dorey
Vermont Department of Health

Burlington—Health officials today announced a probable human case of West Nile virus in Franklin County. If confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this will be the first reported human case of West Nile virus in Vermont.

“We have already confirmed that West Nile virus is Vermont—both birds and mosquitoes have tested positive—so it was only a matter of time before a human case was identified” said Dr. Patsy Tassler, Health Department epidemiologist.

The Franklin County man was admitted and treated at Northwest Medical Center and has since been discharged.

West Nile virus is typically spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. To date, a small number of infected mosquitoes have been identified in both Franklin and Grand Isle counties.

Tassler emphasized that the risk of any individual becoming ill from the bite of a mosquito infected with West Nile virus is very low.

“Most people who contract West Nile virus have no symptoms and don’t even get sick,” said Tassler. “Only about 1 percent of people who are infected develop illness that requires medical attention.”

People over age 50 are the most at risk of becoming severely ill from West Nile virus. However, all Vermonters should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites, Tassler said.

The Health Department recommends that people limit outdoor time at dawn and dusk and other times when mosquitoes are out, wear long sleeves and pants when possible outside, and use insect repellant that contains DEET (carefully following product directions and never using it on infants).

According to Jon Turmel, state entomologist at the Vermont Department of Agriculture, the type of mosquitoes that have tested positive in Vermont to date Culex pipiens/restuans are species known for breeding in small areas of standing water and artificial containers.

People can reduce breeding areas around their homes. Any puddle or standing water that lasts for more than four days can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, so people should empty clogged gutters, change water in bird baths regularly, turn over any wading pool or wheelbarrow, and get rid of any piles of old tires.

Vermont health and agriculture officials have been actively engaged in a program to identify and track West Nile virus among birds and mosquitoes as part of the state’s West Nile Virus Surveillance and Response Program. The complete plan can be viewed here.

The Health Department continues to ask residents who see a dead bird to report it by calling their local Health Department office.

Since August:
- 25 birds have tested positive for West Nile virus [from Franklin, Lamoille and Chittenden counties]
- 3 horses have tested positive [from Franklin, Addison and Orleans counties]
- mosquitoes have tested positive in Franklin and Grand Isle county