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News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release:

September 22, 2000

Media Contact:

Malcolm Grant 222-6605, cell phone 447-1351
Stephanie Powell 222-4700 ext. 4418, pager 482-2968

DEM RECEIVES CONFIRMATION OF WEST NILE VIRUS IN FIVE CROWS IN TWO COMMUNITIES

Ground Spraying Not Recommended At This Time Due to Weather Constraints; Personal Protection Remains Primary Prevention Measure
DEM's WNV/EEE Web Page

PROVIDENCE –The Department of Environmental Management this evening announced the finding of West Nile Virus in five crows collected in two communities between September 14 and September 17.

Three birds were collected in Westerly and two were collected in Coventry. The birds were tested at the University of Rhode Island’s Mosquito Virus Testing Laboratory. Confirmatory test results for all five were received by DEM at 8 p.m. this evening. Confirmatory results on one other bird from Westerly whose preliminary tests point toward West Nile Virus are expected over the weekend and will be reported on Monday.

One of the crows was collected from Chester Avenue in Westerly on September 14. Ground spraying took place on September 20 in that neighborhood, after the bird was collected, so will not be repeated. The other two Westerly crows were collected on September 16 from Terrace Avenue and Bayberry Lane, both in the Weekapaug area. One Coventry crow was collected on September 15 from Hill Farm Road near the northern end of Flat River Reservoir. The other Coventry crow was collected on September 17 from West Shore Road in the Lake Tiogue area.

Spraying Not Recommended at This Time

DEM and the Department of Health do not recommend the spraying of contact adulticides such as Sumithrin when evening temperatures drop much below 60 degrees, and under no circumstances when below 55 degrees; the reason being that at such low temperatures mosquitoes are not active. Other constraints on spraying include winds in excess of 10 miles per hour and rain.

Because the long-range forecast calls for rain tomorrow night and increasingly colder nighttime temperatures through at least next Thursday, DEM and HEALTH do not recommend ground spraying by affected communities at this time. Ground spraying in populated areas within a two-mile radius of the positive finding of West Nile Virus would be indicated if and when warmer temperatures bring an increase in mosquito biting activity.

As seasonal temperatures continue to decrease with the onset of fall weather, such increases in biting activity will become less frequent and of shorter duration; cooler weather will also cause a reduction in the total number of mosquitoes available to bite humans over the next several weeks.

If ground spraying were to take place, the two mile radii, in the case of the Coventry birds, includes a densely populated area in the southwest corner of West Warwick as well as smaller, less populated areas of East Greenwich, West Greenwich, and Scituate.

Personal Protection Remains Key

In the meantime, and as always, it is important that all Rhode Islanders continue to take personal protection steps to avoid mosquito bites, and to prevent mosquito breeding grounds around their homes. Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection.

In light of the findings, and in accordance with the state’s West Nile Virus Action Plan, public education emphasizing personal protection will be intensified and DEM will adjust its mosquito surveillance locations by adding additional traps in the areas. DEM will continue to monitor weather conditions and biting activity.

DEM was also notified tonight by the lab that a crow collected on September 17 in Newport, near Memorial Boulevard and Rhode Island Avenue, has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Consistent with the state's Mosquito Borne Disease Plan, DEM and the Department of Health recommend against ground spraying of pesticides in this circumstance. Several decades of trapping and testing mosquitoes statewide clearly show that EEE infection is almost always limited to mosquito species which do not bite humans, and, therefore, represent no human health threat. All evidence is that EEE, even when carried by a human biting mosquito, is much less readily transmitted to a human bitten by that mosquito than is West Nile Virus.

Under the state’s mosquito action plan, testing birds and mosquitoes for signs of the disease has been ongoing since late May. No mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis. To date, 130 birds have tested negative for either disease, seven previously tested positive for West Nile Virus, and two previously tested positive for EEE. In addition, the presence of West Nile Virus was previously reported in a horse, which was euthanized.

Toll-free information about protection from mosquitoes is available during normal weekday business hours by calling HEALTH’s Family Health Information Line: 1-800-942-7434 or DEM ‘s Mosquito Information Line: 1-866-634-7500. It is also available online at www.health.state.ri.us and/or www.dem.state.ri.us.

Note to editors: For information specific to health, contact Robert Marshall, Jr., Ph.D. at the Department of Health, 222-2231, pager 544-4359.


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