Heavy rains create low-risk season for West Nile Virus

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(Host) The end of summer is a time when the risk of infection from West Nile virus can increase. There have been no human cases of the virus reported in Vermont for the past two years, but the disease has been identified in a crow found dead in Middlebury.

Crows are common carriers of West Nile, which is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and which, in rare cases, can cause severe illness if an infected mosquito bites a human.

Dr. Patsy Tassler of the health department says this is a low-risk season for West Nile. That’s because the mosquito that carries the virus has had a poor breeding season, thanks to all the rain here.

(Tassler) “When the mosquito season is cooler and wetter, there’s less of a risk for West Nile virus transmission. And that’s because mosquitoes we’re most concerned about for spreading West Nile virus like to breed in stagnant water. So when there’s been a lot of rain, catch basins and culverts, that sort of thing, get washed out regularly. And they don’t support the mosquitoes that typically spread West Nile.”

(Host) Dr. Patsy Tassler encourages Vermonters to continue reporting any cases of dead birds. She says the health department uses the information to calculate a weekly index, which can help predict when the risk for human cases is increasing.

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