West Nile virus found in Rockingham, Brattleboro, Putney and Newbury
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | August 30,2014
ROCKINGHAM — The state warned Vermonters on Friday that recent tests of mosquitoes show the presence of West Nile virus in southern Vermont.
The tests revealed the virus in three different batches of mosquitoes in Rockingham, and one each in Brattleboro, Putney and Newbury.
Previously, the state’s testing had revealed West Nile virus in St. Albans, said Dr. Erica Berl, an epidemiologist with the Department of Health.
Berl would not reveal the specific location of the virus-carrying mosquitoes, saying that mosquitoes are mobile, and a strong breeze can move them several miles. She said the tests reveal that the virus is likely in every part of the state.
The recent tests came from standing water samples collected Aug. 21, with the exception of Newbury, which was done Aug. 18.
“The message to the general public is it’s in Vermont,” she said.
Berl urged Vermonters to take precautions against mosquitoes, particularly at dawn and dusk, by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and wearing an appropriate insect repellent.
Late summer poses the highest risk of illness to humans, and although recent cool evenings help decrease mosquito activity, mosquitoes remain active until the first hard frost, usually sometime in October.
“We have not yet seen any cases this year in Vermont,” said Berl.
Berl said the three positive batches in Rockingham were three different mosquito species.
Ellen Howard, the health officer for the town of Rockingham, said the town did not participate in the testing and did not know the location hot spot.
But Howard said the town had posted additional information about West Nile virus and mosquitoes on the town’s website, www.rockbf.org, and for those without access to a computer, the town had free materials at the town hall.
Berl said Vermonters should be vigilant to get rid of standing water around their homes; she said mosquitoes can lay their eggs in a small amount of water.
People should change the water in their bird baths regularly, she said, as well as livestock water troughs.
“It should be replaced every few days,” she said.
Potential problem areas include rain gutters, wading pools, and old tires.
Berl said insect repellents that are labeled as effective against mosquitoes should contain no more than 30 percent DEET for adults and children, and DEET should not be used on children younger than two months of age.
Symptoms of West Nile virus are often mild, but can include high fever, according to the Department of Health. A small number of people can develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system, such an encephalitis or meningitis, which can be fatal, according to the Department of Health.
Horses, llamas and alpacas should be vaccinated against Eastern Equine Encephalitis, which is also carried by mosquitoes.
For more information, visit www.healthvermont.gov.