Health Advisory: State Department of Health Reminds New Yorkers to Protect themselves Against Mosquito Bites

West Nile Virus Confirmed in Mosquitoes in Suffolk, Rockland and Erie Counties

Mosquitos

ALBANY (June 30, 2015 – The New York State Department of Health is urging New Yorkers to take personal protective measures to avoid mosquito bites, after confirming the presence of West Nile Virus in mosquitos collected in Suffolk and Rockland Counties.

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause serious illness and occasionally death. Many people who contract the virus do not experience any symptoms of illness, while an estimated 20 percent of infected people develop mild symptoms including fever, headache and body aches, skin rash or swollen lymph glands. It is estimated that one in 150 persons infected with West Nile Virus will experience a more severe case of the disease that could develop into West Nile encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis. These more severe cases may also cause additional symptoms including stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis or coma.

The Rockland and Suffolk County ‘pools’ of mosquitoes are the first in the state to test positive for West Nile and to date, there have been no reported human cases. In 2014, 752 mosquito pools tested positive statewide, with 21 reported human cases and no deaths. Erie County’s Health Commissioner says the West Nile Virus has been detected in WNY.The disease was found in a mosquito pool in Erie County. it is the first positive test found during the state health department’s regular checks this year.

In addition to West Nile, mosquitoes may also carry Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

EEE is a rare, but extremely serious viral disease spread by mosquitoes that can affect people and horses. People of all ages are susceptible to infection, but people over 50 and younger than 15 are at greatest risk for acquiring the virus. While most people bitten by an infected mosquito will not develop any symptoms, severe cases begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, encephalitis and coma. Approximately a third of patients who develop EEE die, while many patients who survive EEE experience mild to severe brain damage.

EEE has not been detected in any mosquito samples tested to date this year, and there have been no human cases. In 2014, 87 mosquito pools tested positive statewide, with two reported human cases. No deaths occurred, however there have been three confirmed deaths from the disease in New York over the past five years.

There is no commercially available human vaccine for either West Nile Virus or EEE, so the best way to protect yourself is to keep mosquitoes from biting you. One of the best ways to do this is to take steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home or property, including eliminating standing water in yards, by:

  • Disposing of used tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers in which water collects.
  • Drilling holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.
  • Making sure roof gutters drain properly; cleaning clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
  • Turning over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use and changing the water in bird baths twice a week.
  • Cleaning vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
  • Cleaning and chlorinating swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs, and draining water from pool covers.

Repellents also provide protection against tick and mosquito bites. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend choosing a repellent that contains DEET, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus for use on skin. Clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents, can be treated with products containing permethrin. (Permethrin should not be used on skin.) Treated clothing or gear remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is also available and remains protective for up to 70 washings. For all repellents, follow the label directions and apply in small amounts, avoiding contact with the eyes, nose or mouth. Use only small amounts when applying repellents on children.

For more information on West Nile virus visit:www.health.ny.gov/diseases/west_nile_virus/fact_sheet.htm.

For more information on eastern equine encephalitis virus visit: www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/eastern_equine_encephalitis/fact_sheet.htm.