Northwest NEWS

September 23, 2002

Features

West Nile Virus: Steps for preparation and prevention

King County Executive Ron Sims joined with Dr. Alonzo Plough, Director of Public Health - Seattle & King County, in outlining the steps King County is taking to prepare for the eventual arrival of the West Nile virus and called on the public to contribute to these preventative actions.
   "When the West Nile virus arrives in our county, it will not be cause for alarm or panic," said Sims. "King County is taking extensive steps to make sure that the consequences to our community are minimal. There's also much you, as residents, can do to prepare and prevent."
   King County residents are being urged to: report dead crows to Public Health for testing for West Nile Virus, reduce the mosquito-breeding habitats around homes, and learn personal protection measures to reduce the chance of being bitten by mosquitos.
   "A very small percentage of people become infected with West Nile virus. And of those who are infected, the great majority do not become ill and show no symptoms," said Plough. "We're working collaboratively with different local jurisdictions and agencies, as well as with the state, to make sure we minimize the impact of this disease and to better respond to all emerging diseases in the future."
   Public Health is launching a new West Nile virus hotline and webpages with information about the virus and plans in King County as well as about what residents can do.
   The West Nile virus hotline number is (206) 205-3883.
   The West Nile virus Web pages are: http://www.metrokc.gov/health/westnile.
   King County's comprehensive surveillance plan
   Public Health surveillance activities are underway to survey mosquitoes and monitor for the appearance of West Nile virus in animals and humans. West Nile virus is usually detected in birds before cases occur in humans.
   Though there are dozens of mosquito species in Washington state, only six species of mosquitoes have been identified as potential carriers of West Nile virus in King County. "Knowing the locations and breeding conditions of potential virus carriers is essential to helping us decide strategies and control measures that protect human health while safeguarding our environment," said Plough.
   Crows and other members of the corvid family are particularly susceptible to West Nile virus. Public Health is testing dead crows to see if they have died from West Nile virus. To date no birds have been found with West Nile virus in our state. If residents of King County find a dead crow, they may call (206) 205-4394. Public Health inspectors may pick up dead birds that are appropriate for testing.
   "This dead bird surveillence is key. When we find a dead bird with West Nile virus, King County will know that the virus has arrived in our area," said Plough.
   For the medical community, Public Health has provided procedures for submitting diagnostic samples and reporting persons with suspected West Nile virus infection. Health care providers and hospitals are required by law to report to Public Health suspected cases of viral encephalitis, including cases suspected to be caused by West Nile virus.
   Mosquito habitat reduction and personal protection
   Mosquitoes can never be completely eliminated, but there are steps that residents can take for personal protection and to reduce mosquito habitats in their yards and around their homes.
   Reduce habitats: Tip out containers such as cans, tires, buckets, children's toys, watering cans, plastic sheets and plant saucers; tip over bird baths and wading pools once a week; dispose of old tires or cover them so they don't collect water; make sure water doesn't get into cans or bottles that are awaiting recycling; clean out rain gutters regularly.
   Prepare your home: Make sure your screens fit tightly, and repair rips or tears; consider adding a screen door to outside doors.
   Take personal protection measures: Wear long sleeves and long pants; consider wearing insect repellent; as with any chemical, follow the directions on the label.
   For more mosquito habitat reduction and personal protection information, visit Public Health's West Nile Virus webpages: http://metrokc.gov/health/westnile.