Sussex County Delaware

West Nile Strikes First
Coastal Sussex Birds
West Nile Virus

Infected Birds Found
in Rehoboth, Lewes

State officials announced on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2002, that the first dead wild birds with West Nile Virus have been found in eastern Sussex County.

A dead crow found Aug. 27 and a dead blue jay found Aug. 30 in the Lewes area, and a dead crow found Sept. 4 south of Midway, west of Rehoboth Beach, tested positive for West Nile, according to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

In addition, a second West Nile-positive crow was found in Seaford Sept. 5, DNREC reported.

Those four birds in Sussex County bring the statewide total for 2002 to 74 and the countywide total to 5. Most of the virus-positive birds have been found in northern New Castle County. Two more positive mosquito collections were found Sept. 4 and 5 near Claymont and Port Penn, bringing statewide positive mosquito samples to five this year.

A blue jay found near Seaford Aug. 17 was the first virus-positive bird ever found in Sussex County. A horse contracted West Nile encephalitis near Georgetown in 2001.

There has never been a case of human West Nile encephalitis in Delaware.

Most of the birds that have tested positive for West Nile in New Castle County have been found in the northern area of that county to the north or west of the I-95 and I-495 corridor.

After heavy rains Aug. 29 to Sept. 1, the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control sprayed throughout the state to control immature mosquitoes in water where they breed as well as to control mosquitoes on wing.

Additional heavy rains this past weekend will undoubtedly bring more mosquitoes toward the end of September. The mosquito control season won't come to a close until the first killing freeze, which can come as late as mid-November in Delaware.

As it has in past announcements of the virus, DNREC said there is no cause for alarm but that people should use common sense and take extra precautions to avoid or reduce mosquito bites.

DNREC advises Delawareans to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors, apply insect repellent containing 30 percent of less DEET for adults and 10 percent or less DEET for children, and to avoid mosquito-infested areas or times of peak mosquito activity around dusk, dawn or throughout the evening.

Humans infected with West Nile usually only contract mild symptoms similar to a mild flu or cold. DNREC said humans rarely experience suddent onset of severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, confusion and muscle weakness. Individuals with those symptoms should see their doctors immediately, DNREC said.

The agency said that drought conditions have reduced mosquito populations this year but that there are still mosquitos capable of transmitting the disease to wild birds, horses and humans.

DNREC encourages those who find dead crows, blue jays or birds of prey such as hawks, falcons, eagles or owls that have not been killed by obvious traumatic injuries to report the findings to the Mosquito Control Section at one of the numbers below from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

DNREC said that although West Nile Virus is not transmitted by handling birds that anyone who does so should wear gloves and avoid direct skin contact with the dead birds.

  • New Castle County (302) 323-4492
  • Kent or Sussex County (302) 422-1512
  • Evenings, weekends & holidays 1-800-523-3336
  • For human health questions about West Nile Virus, call DPH, (302)744-4541.
  • For questions about mosquito control, call DNREC, (302) 739-3493.
  • For questions about West Nile in animals, call DDA at 800-282-8685 and ask for poultry-animal health.

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