[West Nile Virus Information]

West Nile Virus Information
September 2003 Update

Schuylkill Township recently received information from the Chester County Health Department regarding West Nile Virus and the department’s “dead bird” program.

  • Since spring 2000, it has been the practice of the Chester Country Health Department, and many other County and State Health Departments, to not pick up dead birds. The Health Department does investigate and collect water where mosquito breeding is thought to be occurring. The Department also places equipment to collect adult mosquitoes. These are then tested for the presence of West Nile Virus and then appropriate control agents are used. Dead birds are merely sentinels for the presence of the Virus. The Virus may be present in any warm-blooded animal, as well as humans, but the agent that moves it is the mosquito; so mosquito breeding, and heavy numbers flying, are much more critical for disease control.
  • From April 1 to November 2000-2002, birds that were dead, and in pristine condition, were shipped to designated labs in Pennsylvania, or in other states across the nation for testing. There was no weekly limit.
  • The first limits on dead birds in Pennsylvania came at the end of August 2002, when a township had 10 positive reports on dead birds, and where it was known that West Nile Virus was present in mosquitoes in that area. Surveillance efforts then were placed in trapping, identifying, and controlling mosquitoes as appropriate.
  • The issue of 5 birds per week for 2003 is correct. The first five birds, in pristine condition, may be submitted through the Health Department to the designated lab.
  • Birds, ideally, are dead less than 12 hours. After that time, the birds have begun to deteriorate, so that the results of testing become less reliable.
  • Disposal would be like any other disposal of a dead animal on your property, and in accordance with your township regulations.
  • The comment about “don’t touch it” - as far as the information we have at this time, you cannot contract West Nile Virus by touching the dead bird.

The Chester County Health Department and the Pennsylvania Department of Health know from the bird surveillance in 2000-2002 that the West Nile Virus is a disease found in most counties, including all of Southeastern Pennsylvania. These departments are glad that citizens are aware of the presence of this disease.

It is also important to not allow water to remain in containers, birdbaths, tires, or pool covers for longer than 48-72 hours. Mosquitoes prefer to breed in still water, regardless of how small a collection. Also, it is still important to stay inside, when possible, at dawn and/or dusk; and if outside, to use a mosquito repellant and to wear long sleeves and pants.

NIH to begin human trials of West Nile virus vaccine

A clinical trial evaluating an experimental treatment for patients infected with West Nile virus (WNV) has begun enrolling volunteers at 36 sites nationwide, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health, announced today. This study is part of a larger effort by NIAID to develop new ways to prevent and treat the disease. For more information, go to the NIAID Newsroom web site.

West Nile Virus Background Information

West Nile Virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. The virus can cause West Nile Encephalitis, which can cause swelling of the brain and has the potential to be fatal. However, most people who do contract the disease recover.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water. If you have any buckets, kiddie pools, or other items that may collect water, dump them. Also, keeping gutters and spouting clear of leaves which can collect water will help reduce the number of mosquitoes.

The Chester County Health Department (CCHD) has prepared an informational flyer. Residents can obtain a copy by sending an e-mail to the Township giving their mailing address.

The CCHD is working with municipalities to identify possible places where mosquitoes can breed. The Department has a program to visit these identified places and test for the type of mosquito larva that carries the virus. Residents can notify the township (via e-mail) and CCHD of any possible breeding sites, including stormwater facilities at new developments, that residents are concerned about.

Additional information on West Nile Virus is available at the web sites listed in the margin.