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West Nile Virus

In late August 1999, an unknown viral encephalitis spread throughout the metropolitan New York area. This virus, later identified as the West Nile Virus (WNV), resulted in at least seven deaths and more than 50 documented cases of disease that year. The reoccurrence of WNV in the spring of 2000, despite precautionary measures taken over the winter, has lead to widespread concern over the spread of the disease. Several municipalities, including Rockland County, have used pesticides (particularly ANVIL) in an effort to eradicate the mosquito, a primary host of the virus. Although a recent Journal-News poll found that two-thirds of the county residents support the spraying effort, there is also considerable opposition, suspicion and mistrust. Many residents are concerned that the pesticides pose an even greater long-term health risk than does the WNV. The following sites can help you understand the issues and facts:

National Biological Information Infrastructure

US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pesticide Programs

Nation Audubon Society Article, Flying Fever

North American Butterfly Association, Article in American Butterflies

Westchester Health Department

Center for Disease Control, August 7, 2000

Center for Disease Control, October 1, 1999

New York City Health Department

No Spray Coalition

National Audubon Society/NY position

Birds are also a primary host of the WNV. In regions, such as Africa, were birds have coexisted with WNV for long periods of time, most bird species have developed a resistance to the infection. In our area, birds have not been exposed long enough to develop this resistance and become ill or die. Anyone in the Rockland County area who spots a dead bird (particularly crows, bluejays, or red-tailed hawks) should immediately call the Rockland County Health Department at (845) 364-2584

For more information on the West Nile Virus in Rockland County, check the following website:

Rockland County Health Department