(Washington, DC. Today, James A. Buford, Interim Director, District of Columbia Department of Health (DOH) reports the first bird in 2002 to test positive for WNV. The bird was picked up in the 2900 block of Connecticut Avenue, NW. To date, there have been NO HUMAN CASES of WNV in the District. However, last year three hundred sixty (360) birds and three (3) mosquito pools tested positive for WNV in the District. DOH is asking residents and businesses to help reduce the risk of the WNV by eliminating mosquito-breeding sites around their homes and businesses.
A WNV Regional Response Plan has been developed by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Regional Health Officers Committee; local, state and federal agencies; municipal and county governments; the military; and the public. The Plan recommends many activities and coordinates responses across jurisdictional boundaries including mosquito surveillance, mosquito control, avian and mammalian surveillance, human surveillance and public information.
WNV is mainly an infection of birds, but on rare occasions an infected mosquito may spread it to a human. In human infections, the virus usually causes no symptoms, but it may cause mild flu-like symptoms. It is rarely severe.
Several types of mosquitoes thrive in the District and surrounding areas, including the Northern House mosquito (Culex pipiens), which bites from early evening to dawn. The Culex mosquito is known to transmit WNV, particularly to birds such as crows, blue jays, and hawks.
The risk of acquiring WNV infection is low. Even in areas where transmission of WNV is known to be occurring, only a small proportion of mosquitoes are likely to be infected (1/1000). Even if a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, the chance of developing illness is approximately 1/300.
Senior citizens, the very young and those with suppressed immune symptoms are more vulnerable. These residents are encouraged to stay indoors at dawn, dusk and early evening when mosquitoes are more active. If individuals must be outdoors, they should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Furthermore, they should apply insect repellent with DEET to exposed skin according to manufacturer’s directions. For children, use a product with DEET concentration of less than 30%. Persons with a severe illness should seek medical attention promptly if they believe they are infected with WNV.
Again, DOH encourages all residents and businesses to reduce mosquito breeding areas on their respective properties. Stagnant water can breed several types of mosquitoes, therefore it is important to correct any drainage problems. Other mosquito prevention tips include the following:
1. Dispose of cans, bottles and open plastic containers properly. Store items for recycling in covered containers.
2. Remove discarded tires. Drill drainage holes in tires used on playground equipment.
3. Cover tires stored outside before each rain and uncover them promptly afterwards to prevent water from standing on the tarps.
4. Clean roof gutters and downspouts regularly. Eliminate standing water from flat roofs.
5. Turn over plastic wading pools, wheelbarrows, and canoes when not in use.
6. Cover waste containers with tight-fitting lids; never allow lids or cans to accumulate water.
7. Flush bird baths and potted plant trays twice each week.
8. Adjust tarps over grills, firewood piles, boats or swimming pools to eliminate small pockets of water from standing several days.
9. Re-grade low areas where water stands and clean out debris in ditches to eliminate standing water in low spots.
10. Maintain swimming pools, clean and chlorinate them as needed, aerate garden ponds and treat with “mosquito dunks” found at hardware stores.
11. Fix dripping water faucets outside and eliminate puddles from air conditioners.
12. Store pet food and water bowls inside when not in use.
“Following the tips above will help reduce the mosquito population and the associated disease risks in all District neighborhoods,” said Mr. Buford.
The DOH has already initiated the application of larvicide to areas where Culex mosquitoes breed, especially in catch basins and small cavities where water can sit for several days.
For Additional Information:
Contact the West Nile Virus Call Center at
(202) 535-2323, or
the Department of Health Website.