Positive mosquito pools for West Nile Virus found in Shelby County

The Tennessee Department of Health Laboratory in Nashville identified three mosquito specimens testing positive for West Nile Virus in Shelby County so far this year. The specimen, consisting of 50 mosquitoes, was collected on June 17. No positive birds have been detected in Shelby County as of today. No human cases have been reported in Shelby County as of this time.

The Memphis and Shelby County Health Department's Vector Control Section increased larviciding activity and will be conducting door-to-door surveys in the area surrounding the positive mosquito pools in zip codes 38108, 38112, and 38117.

The Memphis and Shelby County Health Department strongly encourages everyone to take extra precautions against mosquito bites during this post rainy period. The abundance of recent rainfall throughout Shelby County, has increased mosquito-breeding areas. All residents are strongly encouraged to take measures to protect themselves, including the safe use of a mosquito repellant containing DEET.

Ms. Yvonne S. Madlock, Director, Memphis and Shelby County Health Department states, "The battle against West Nile Virus in our community cannot be won through just the efforts of the Health Department – we are all partners in this fight. You are your own best defense against this virus, and we urge citizens to minimize the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes by following precautions to protect themselves from possible exposure to infected mosquitoes, including the safe use of mosquito repellents."

Because the virus is transmitted to humans and animals by mosquitoes that have bitten infected birds, the Health Department advises individuals to:

  • Reduce or eliminate all standing water in your yard (ex. – gutters, plastic pools, tires, etc.), especially after rainfall.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites by using an insect repellent that contains DEET (the chemical N-N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Caution: Always apply insect repellents in accordance to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Wear shoes, socks, long sleeve shirts and pants when outdoors during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most prevalent. Clothing should be light colored and made of tightly woven materials to keep mosquitoes away from the skin. Pant legs should be tucked into shoes or socks, and collars should be buttoned. Light colored clothes are less attractive to mosquitoes.
  • Change the water in your birdbath daily, during the very hot weather, or minimum of every 2-3 days to keep it from becoming a mosquito breeding ground.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with Gambusia fish (available FREE from Health Dept.).
  • Dispose of old tires, cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots (including the “drip plates” underneath them) or other unused containers that can hold water, this may include children’s toys.
  • Residents with no screens on doors or windows are encouraged to purchase “mosquito netting” from a hardware or fabric store to place on doors or windows. The netting can be attached around the door or window frame with duck tape. The netting will allow good ventilation to the home, while keeping the flying insects and mosquitoes out.

In 2004, the West Nile Virus (WNV) has not been detected in birds Shelby County. In Tennessee Equine tested positive in Fayette County , and one bird tested positive in Knox County. No reported human cases of WNV have been reported in Shelby County, or in the state of Tennessee . A total of 32 human cases of WNV have been reported in the United States.

The Health Department is accepting non-decomposed dead crows and blue jays for West Nile Virus testing. Crows and blue jays are the only species that will be tested, as these birds seem more susceptible to the virus and die within a few days of being infected. Residents can drop the bird off at the Vector Control office located at 2480 Central Avenue during business hours (8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday thru Friday). The office will be closed on Monday, July 5. If the bird is found after normal business hours or the resident can not bring the bird in immediately, place the bird contained in a plastic bag, in a cooler on ice and deliver it to the Vector Control office the next business day. Do not place bagged bird in food refrigerator.

Residents can contact the West Nile Virus Hotline at (901) 544-7503 for more information about bird testing or general questions relating to West Nile. Individuals outside of Shelby County should contact their state or local health department for information regarding bird surveillance.

For more information regarding the West Nile Virus or what you can do around your home or business to reduce mosquito activity, please check out the web site . Or call Vector Control during normal business hours at (901) 324-5547.