Vermonters Asked To Report Dead Birds Again This Year

For Immediate Release: June 24, 2004

Contact: Patsy Tassler, Ph.D.
Epidemiologist
Vermont Department of Health
802- 863-7240

BURLINGTON – Vermonters are being asked to report dead bird sightings to the Vermont Department of Health again this summer. The department is collecting and testing dead birds as part of its West Nile virus surveillance effort.

Dead birds can be an indication that mosquitoes in a particular geographic region in the state carry West Nile virus. The Department of Health tests many of the dead birds that are turned in. Even if a bird is not tested, the report of the sighting still provides important information.

If you see a dead bird, please call and report your sighting to the local Department of Health district office or you can call 1-800-913-1139 (8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday).

The state began collecting birds earlier this month. Last year, 1751 dead birds were reported, 827 were tested and 116 birds tested positive for West Nile virus.

People, birds and horses can become infected with West Nile virus from the bite of an infected mosquito. In 2003, three people and four horses in Vermont tested positive for the virus.

There is a safe, effective vaccine for horses. Horse owners should contact their veterinarian to get their horses vaccinated.

While most people who are infected do not have any symptoms, it is worth guarding against West Nile virus because the illness can be severe, especially in older people.

Approximately 20 percent of people who are infected have mild symptoms that can include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. More severe cases can cause headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis and sometimes death.

In addition to monitoring the dead bird population, the Department of Health and the Agency of Agriculture are working together to trap mosquitoes to test them for the virus.

Steps You Can Take To Avoid West Nile Virus

More information about West Nile virus, national and Vermont statistics, and others ways to protect yourself can be found on the Vermont Department of Health website: www.HealthyVermonters.com .