Residents encouraged to report concerns to DC Department of Health Hotline
Washington, DC Dr. Ivan C.A. Walks, Chief Health Officer for the District of Columbia and Director of the Department of Health, together with other District officials, today report that although there is no evidence that the West Nile Virus has or will show up in the District, residents are encouraged to continue to help the city monitor symptoms by calling:
The DC Department of Health West Nile Virus Hotline: (202) 576-7934
The DC Department of Health (DOH) today collected two dead birds for testing, following a report from a concerned northwest Washington resident who found them near his home at Fessenden and Reno Road.
Chief of Animal Disease Control, Peggy Keller, retrieved the birds - a crow and light grey songbird - and delivered them at 6:30 pm today to the Districts Animal Control facility. The specimens will remain refrigerated until Friday morning when they are sent for testing to the Maryland State Laboratory. District health officials expect the test results to be returned in one week.
District agencies receive several calls per week in reference to a dead bird citing, according to health officials. To date, DC DOH has collected and tested negative over 60 dead birds since April when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) instituted an East Coast surveillance program. Three human specimens submitted to laboratories in the last several months also tested negative.
Everything to date has tested negative, said Dr. Walks. Were confident that our tests are comprehensive and that were on top of the surveillance procedure. Were conducting tests on human, mammal and avian species.
Because of our fairly mild temperatures in this region, the CDC recommends that we continue surveillance through November, said Dr. Walks. Well do whatever is necessary to protect the health of our citizens.
DC Emergency Management Agency Director, Peter G. LaPorte, noted that his agency has also received several calls reporting dead birds. All of the specimens resulting from the calls tested negative. We will work closely with the Department of Health to ensure that public health and safety are not compromised during this vigil.
Dr. Walks praised the Districts cooperative effort between local, state and federal agencies, municipal and county governments and the military who devised in July a West Nile Virus Response Plan that includes Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland.
District officials encourage residents to take the following steps if they find a dead bird:
- Avoid contact with the dead bird
- Call the DC West Nile Virus Hotline at (202) 576-7934
- Provide an exact location where the bird can be found (including nearest address)
- Provide contact name, phone number and address
Health officials will respond within 24 hours to retrieve the birds and will return calls for assistance with investigation of the citing.
Dr. Walks is appealing to residents to be conscious of the need to eliminate mosquito-breeding places around their homes. Mosquitoes breed readily in small, shallow pools of standing water and can become a problem if preventive measures are not taken. Residents are encouraged to take the following preventive steps:
- Dispose of cans, bottles and plastic containers. Store items to be recycled in covered trash cans
- Eliminate discarded tires. Drill drainage holes in tires used for playground equipment
- Clean roof gutters and downspout screens regularly. Eliminate standing water on flat roofs
- Turn over plastic wading pools, wheelbarrows, and canoes
- Turn garbage can lids right side up. Dump water from the bottom of garbage cans
- Flush birdbaths and the bottom of potted plant holder trays twice weekly
- Adjust tarps over grills, firewood piles, boats and swimming pools
- Re-grade drainage areas and clean debris in ditches to eliminate standing water in low spots
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, aerate garden ponds and add mosquito dunks found at local hardware stores
- Fix outdoor dripping water faucets and eliminate puddles from air conditioners
- Store pet food and water bowls indoors when not in use
West Nile Virus Background
West Nile encephalitis is a disease that is normally found in certain species of birds. Research has shown that mosquitoes transmit the disorder from birds to animals. This occurs when the correct species of mosquito feeds on a bird that has a high level of virus in its circulation. As the bird migrates, so does the encephalitis.
The West Nile virus causes encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain. Mild symptoms associated with the virus include fever, head and body aches, often with swollen lymph glands. In more severe cases, the symptoms include headache, high fever and neck stiffness, which can progress to stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, occasional convulsions, paralysis and in rare instances death. Treatment of the virus involves intensive supportive therapy for the severe cases.
The elderly and immune-suppressed are more susceptible to the virus than other age groups. There is no vaccine to prevent contraction of the disease. Likewise, dogs, cats and birds especially the crow and blue jay - can be infected with the virus. Animals cannot transmit the disease to other animals or humans.