West Nile virus found in Pownal, Shaftsbury

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POWNAL — A sample of mosquitoes collected from traps in both Pownal and Shaftsbury have tested positive for West Nile virus.

Mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus were found in two pools collected from both towns on Aug. 18, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

No mosquitoes this year have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE. There have been no confirmed human cases of EEE or West Nile virus in Vermont this year.

The virus has been found in mosquitoes in every county of the state in past years, so it isn't surprising to have positive test results in Bennington County, said Ben Truman, spokesman for DOH.

So far this season, mosquitoes from 12 counties have tested positive for West Nile virus, he said. That includes the Brattleboro in Windham County.

West Nile virus was first detected in Vermont in 2000 and has been found every year since, with the peak of activity in late August and early September. It's spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and can cause illness ranging from a mild fever and flu-like symptoms to serious conditions like encephalitis and meningitis — both inflammation affecting the central nervous system. The most serious cases affect about 1 of every 150 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Eight cases of West Nile virus in Vermont residents have been reported since 2011, according to DOH.

"Pools" of 50 mosquitoes are collected by staff of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. Mosquitoes are tested by DOH.

The state has tested 2,437 mosquito pools since June, according to DOH. In 2016, the state tested 3,243 mosquito pools, of which 19 were positive for West Nile virus.

"With all the spring and early summer rain we had, there are a lot of mosquitoes, so the important thing is for people to take steps to prevent mosquito bites," Truman said.

The DOH advises wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants when going outdoors, staying inside at dusk and dawn, using insect repellent, putting insect repellent on clothing, covering strollers and playpens with mosquito netting, bug proofing your home by sealing doors and windows, and dispelling any standing water in or near your home.

For more information on mosquito borne illnesses, go to www.healthvermont.gov/mosquito.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.

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