August 15, 2008 - The Health Department today confirmed the season’s first human cases of West Nile virus in a 73-year-old Queens woman and a 60-year-old man from the Bronx. In response to the cases and the growing number of mosquitoes testing positive for the virus, the Health Department urged resident to take steps to prevent infection.
"A case of West Nile virus provides an urgent reminder to protect ourselves," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. "Wearing mosquito repellent whenever you are outdoors, and long sleeves and pants in the morning and evening will reduce your risk of contracting the virus. Older New Yorkers need to be especially careful; they are more likely to become seriously ill and die if they are infected."
Both individuals became ill in late July and were hospitalized in August. The Queens woman developed inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), but is now recovering in the hospital. She was most likely infected in New York City because she has not left the city recently. The man from the Bronx developed an inflammation of the brain and spinal tissue (meningitis) as a result of the virus, but has been discharged and recovered fully. This individual reported recent travel outside of New York City, and may have been infected in the city or while he was away.
West Nile virus infections typically occur at this point in the summer. Last year, 18 New Yorkers contracted the virus and three of them died.
Take Simple Steps to Avoid Mosquitoes
- Use an approved insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (not recommended for children under 3), or IR3535.
- Wear protective clothing such as long pants and long-sleeved shirts, particularly at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
- Make sure windows have screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
- Eliminate any standing water from your property, and dispose of containers that can collect water. Make sure roof gutters are clean and draining properly. Standing water is a violation of the health code.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. Keep them empty and covered if not in use; drain water that collects in pool covers.
More Mosquitoes Test Positive this Season
Citywide surveillance is showing a larger number of mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile virus compared to last summer, and the Department is conducting sprayings to control mosquitoes. So far this year, mosquitoes with the virus have been found in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx, with the most positive tests in Queens and Staten Island.
The Health Department monitors for West Nile Virus and applies pesticides as needed throughout the summer. The Department has been conducting routine preventive mosquito control (larviciding) in parts of Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx, using a naturally-occurring and environmentally-friendly product to prevent immature mosquitoes from growing into adults. In addition, the Health Department has sprayed pesticide in recent weeks to reduce adult mosquito activity in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. A schedule of mosquito control activities is available at nyc.gov/health or by calling 311.
About West Nile virus
West Nile virus infection can cause a mild or moderate flu-like illness, or sometimes no symptoms at all. But in some cases, particularly among people 50 years of age and older, it can cause serious infection in the brain and spinal cord that can be fatal. The most common symptoms are headache, fever and extreme fatigue. If you think you have symptoms of West Nile virus, see your doctor right away. For more information about West Nile virus, and how to avoid it, visit www.nyc.gov/health or call 311.