Vermont West Nile Update: 2nd Human Case ‘Probable’

For immediate release:
August 28, 2002

News Media Contact: Linda Dorey
Vermont Department of Health

Burlington—Health officials today announced a second probable human case of West Nile virus in Vermont.

The new probable case, an elderly Windham County woman, was reported to the Health Department on September 20. The first probable case, a Franklin County man, was reported earlier in the same month.

Health officials are still waiting for confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the laboratory tests on these two individuals are in fact positive for West Nile virus.

The man from Franklin County has recovered. The woman from Windham County recently died; cause of death has not yet been determined.

“This does not change our advice to the public,” said Dr. Patsy Tassler of the Vermont Department of Health. “People should continue to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.”

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).

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 on the Health Department’s website at

Routine surveillance trapping of mosquitoes has documented reduced numbers of mosquitoes in recent weeks.

According to Tassler, mosquito activity will stop for the winter in Vermont after a couple of hard frosts.

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

Since August: