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W. Nile Fears Boost Repellant Sales

August 4, 2000

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) _ All of the hot-selling items at Keough’s Turn of River Hardware this summer have had one thing in common: getting rid of those pesky mosquitoes.

Since the West Nile virus was found in mosquitoes and birds here last month, cans of OFF!, window screens, mosquito netting, outdoor foggers and larvicide have been flying off the shelves.

``It’s definitely had an impact. We’ve had a good 20 percent increase in sales because of that,″ said Frank Sargent, the manager at Keough’s.

``People are concerned. Everybody is cautious about it. They want to make sure they cover themselves, but they’re really not in a panic.″

The mosquito-borne virus, which made its first appearance in the Western Hemisphere last year, has been found in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Massachusetts.

The virus killed seven people in New York last year and sickened more than 60 others.

The first human case of the West Nile virus this year was confirmed Friday. A 78-year-old Staten Island, N.Y., man was recovering at home after spending a week in the hospital.

West Nile can cause encephalitis, a swelling of the brain. The virus is most dangerous for children under 5, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. But most people who contract it experience flu-like symptoms and never realize they have been exposed to the virus.

The CVS pharmacy in Ashland, Mass., sold out of its entire stock of mosquito repellent the weekend after a crow in nearby Hopkinton was found to be carrying the virus, according to store supervisor Kristen Roy.

Customers bought more than 150 bottles of repellent last weekend.

``On Sunday, people were livid with us. They couldn’t believe we didn’t have any of it,″ Roy said. ``They keep asking for directions on where to go to get it.″

Retail giant Wal-Mart also has seen an increase in repellent sales in its stores in northeast states where the virus has been found, particularly in New York, said Tom Williams, a spokesman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based chain. He said he could not provide specific sales figures.

Despite the brisk repellent sales, some people were unfazed by the mosquito scare.

``You can’t go through your life worrying about things like that,″ said David Hoffenberg of Stamford.

At the Paradise Bar and Grille, a waterfront restaurant in Stamford, customers seem unaffected by publicity about West Nile.

``They all insist on sitting outside rather than inside, so that tells me it’s not a concern,″ said owner Klaus Schmidt.

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