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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:

October 7, 2000

Contact:

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

WEST NILE VIRUS IN BIRDS INCREASING, BUT THREAT TO HUMANS DECREASING DUE TO DECLINE IN MOSQUITOES AND LOW BITING ACTIVITY
DEM's West Nile Virus/EEE Web Page

PROVIDENCE Ė The Department of Environmental Management said today that 16 additional birds have tested positive for West Nile Virus, a finding that is not surprising. While the number of birds testing positive for West Nile Virus has increased dramatically throughout the Northeast region toward the end of mosquito season, that is to be expected, DEM says.

West Nile Virus builds up in both mosquito and bird populations as those populations exchange the disease back and forth between themselves: diseased birds infecting mosquitoes, diseased mosquitoes infecting yet more birds. All this takes time.

Malcolm Grant, DEMís Associate Director for Natural Resources Management said, "It is also important to recognize that the diseased birds we are reporting today would have been infected by biting mosquitoes at least several weeks ago." Since then, the mosquito population has declined, biting activity is much lower, and no new mosquitoes are being produced. All of these factors add up to a significant reduction in the human health risk for West Nile Virus.

DEM and the Department of Health do not recommend ground spraying as health risks decrease significantly during this advanced state of the season and weather conditions remain not conducive to spraying.

However, there will be some mosquito activity, particularly during periods of warmer daytime temperatures, until the first hard frost. Rhode Islanders should continue to take personal protection steps to avoid mosquito bites, such as covering up and wearing repellent when mosquitoes are active, such as when hiking in the woods in warmer weather. Personal protection is still 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.

Todayís announced results were received from the University of Rhode Islandís Mosquito Virus Testing Laboratory last night. Birds testing positive include 10 from Westerly, two from North Kingstown, and one each from Exeter, Warwick, South Kingstown and Newport.

"Westerly is an anomaly. Westerly has the most sophisticated mosquito abatement program in the state. But, clearly there is a focus of West Nile activity there," Grant said. "This fall and winter, as we plan for the next mosquito season, we will be actively seeking reasons for that and what, if anything, can be done to improve the situation." Despite extensive mosquito trapping in Westerly, no mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus. However, the 50 birds reported positive for West Nile Virus in Rhode Island to date, half were collected in Westerly.

Addresses, collection dates, and species of the 16 birds reported statewide today are: in Westerly, three birds from Beach Street including a blue jay on September 28, a crow on September 29 and a crow on October 1; two birds from Post Road, including a crow on September 28 and a blue jay on September 30; a crow from Fox Run on September 28; a crow from High Street on September 29; a blue jay from Summer Street on September 29; a blue jay from Quannacut Road on September 30 and a crow from Pickering Drive on September 30.

Also, in North Kingstown, a crow from Fletcher Road and a blue jay on Boone Street, both on September 30; in Exeter, a blue jay from Falcon Ridge Drive on September 28; in Warwick, a crow from Goddard Park on September 29; in South Kingstown, a blue jay from Tuckertown Road on October 1; and in Newport, a crow from Farewell Street on October 1.

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


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