Maine CDC Press Release

August 17, 2004

West Nile Virus Confirmed in Maine

Contacts: Dora Anne Mills, MD MPH Kathleen Genshiemer, MD, MPH
  Director, Bureau of Health State Epidemiologist
  Dept. of Health and Human Services Bureau of Health
  Tel:  (207) 287-3270 Tel: (207) 287-5183
  TTY: (207) 287-8066 TTY: (207) 287-8066


AUGUSTA - The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has confirmed the presence of West Nile Virus in Maine. A crow collected from Standish (Cumberland County) on August 6 has tested positive for the virus. This is the first confirmed infected bird of 2004.

“This is a reminder that West Nile Virus is once again here in Maine,” said HHS Commissioner John R. Nicholas. “In view of that, we should all take some simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites and to reduce mosquito populations in and around the home.”

All Mainers can take effective steps to avoid mosquito bites by covering up and using insect repellant with DEET (following labeled instruction carefully) when outdoors. These measures are especially important at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. People can also reduce the areas where mosquitoes breed by getting rid of standing water around the home. This includes, among other things, cleaning rain gutters, removing old tires and turning over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use. Checking and repairing window screens is also recommended.

“Based upon our experience over the past several years, we expect to find a number of positive birds during the coming weeks,” said Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH, Director of HHS’s Bureau of Health. “As West Nile Virus is further introduced in Maine, the common sense measures people can take to protect themselves become that much more important.”

West Nile Virus is carried by birds, particularly crows, and is transmitted to humans through infected mosquitoes that have bitten birds. It was first detected in the United States in 1999 and was first detected in birds in Maine in 2001. Over 150 birds have since tested positive from across the State since that time and several mosquito pools have also tested positive. No human cases have yet been identified from Maine.

State health officials did not rule out the possibility of a person in Maine becoming infected with the virus this year. “We were fortunate last year that there were no confirmed human cases of West Nile Virus,” said Kathleen Gensheimer, MD, the State’s Epidemiologist. “There is a distinct possibility that we might have a human case in Maine before this season is over,” she added.

Thus far in 2004, forty-one states, including Maine and New Hampshire, have now confirmed the presence of West Nile Virus activity. Twenty-four of those states have reported a total of 495 human cases of West Nile Virus, with ten of those cases resulting in death.

Monitoring West Nile Virus in birds is the most effective way of tracking the progression of the virus and the best way to monitor birds is through the dead bird reporting line. HHS is asking Maine residents to continue to report dead birds, especially crows, by calling toll free 888-697-5846.

Additional information about West Nile Virus is available for the public and health care providers at www.mainepublichealth.gov.