West Nile Virus Surveillance Begins Officials Urge Marylanders to Take Precautions

BALTIMORE (July 1, 2013) – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene today will begin tracking West Nile virus (WNV) cases for the 2013 season. Officials remind Marylanders to take precautions to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites in order to prevent West Nile Virus.  The number of human WNV cases in Maryland has varied over the past several years. In 2003, the peak year, 73 human WNV cases were reported statewide. The number of human cases declined for several years afterward, ranging between one and 23 cases from 2004 through 2011. However, health officials documented significant increases in human WNV cases in 2012, with 47 cases reported in Maryland and more than 5,600 cases reported nationwide.

Upon confirmation of the first WNV human case or positive mosquito pool, DHMH will begin to post weekly reports of WNV activity on the Department’s website. The reports will be available each Wednesday at http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/west-nile.aspx.

“The number of West Nile cases we will see in any given year is unpredictable, so we encourage everyone to take some simple actions to avoid mosquito bites,” said Dr. Katherine Feldman, State Public Health Veterinarian at DHMH.

Measures people can take to protect themselves include:
  • Avoid areas of high mosquito activity
  • Avoid unnecessary outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active
  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats when concerned about mosquito exposure
  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent according to package directions
Most individuals infected with WNV will not have any symptoms. People that do develop illness will usually have any combination of fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. These symptoms generally appear three to 15 days following the bite of an infected mosquito. Less than one percent of persons exposed to the virus will develop more severe infections with symptoms such as headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. In rare instances, WNV can be fatal. Persons over 50 years of age have the highest risk of developing more severe disease. People who are immunocompromised may also be at high risk of WNV infection.

Residents are urged to monitor their own yards and gardens for standing water that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Small amounts of water in a discarded can or container will support dozens of mosquitoes. To eliminate mosquito-breeding areas:
  • Clean rain gutters to allow water to flow freely
  • Remove old tires or drill drainage holes in tires used as playground equipment
  • Turn over wading pools, wheelbarrows, wagons and carts when not in use. Flush water from bottom of plant holders twice a week
  • Replace water in birdbaths at least twice a week
  • Turn garbage can lids upside down and make sure trash receptacles are empty of water
  • Fix dripping faucets
  • Aerate ornamental pools and water gardens or stock with fish and use a circulating filter system
Although birds are not routinely tested for WNV in Maryland, sick or injured birds can be reported to an appropriate local wildlife rehabilitator. Residents can call 1-877-463-6497 for a list of licensed rehabilitators or visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources web site at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/rehab.asp . Detailed instructions on what to do when you find a sick or dead bird can be found at http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/west-nile.aspx .

For additional information on West Nile virus, visit::
  • Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/west-nile.aspx
  • Maryland Department of Agriculture: http://mda.maryland.gov/plants-pests/Pages/mosquito_control.aspx
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html
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