July 26, 2012 – The Health Department today confirmed the season’s first human case of West Nile virus in a Staten Island man over the age of 50. The patient was hospitalized with viral meningitis and has since been released. In response to this case, and the growing number of mosquitoes testing positive for the virus, the Health Department has completed three rounds of pesticide spraying in Staten Island in order to reduce the number of mosquitoes and the risk of West Nile virus.
“This first human case of West Nile virus this season provides a vital reminder to protect ourselves against mosquito bites,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “Eliminating standing water from your property will help prevent mosquitos from multiplying. Wearing mosquito repellent when you are outdoors, and long sleeves and pants in the morning and evening will reduce your risk of infection. New Yorkers age 50 and older should be especially careful as they are more likely to become seriously ill, and in rare instances die, if infected.”
The Health Department uses an “integrated pest management” approach to monitors the city for West Nile virus and control its spread by mosquitoes. The agency inspects and treats standing water sites with non-chemical larvicides to kill larval mosquitoes before they emerge as flying adults. When necessary, the agency also applies small amounts of chemical pesticides (adulticides) to kill adult mosquitoes. A schedule of mosquito control activities is available online at nyc.gov/health or by phone from the 311 call center.
West Nile virus infections typically begin to occur around this time in the summer. To date, 252 New Yorkers have been diagnosed with West Nile Virus since it was first found in the United States in 1999.
Reducing Exposure to Mosquitoes
- Consider reducing the amount of time spent outdoors during the hours between dusk and dawn in areas with heavy mosquito populations.
- Use an approved insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (not for children under three), or products that contain the active ingredient IR3535.
- Make sure windows have screens, and repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
- Eliminate any standing water from your property, and dispose of containers that can collect water. Standing water is a violation of the New York City Health Code.
- Make sure roof gutters are clean and draining properly.
- 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.
- Report standing water by calling 311 or visiting http://www.nyc.gov/health/wnv.
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 people, particularly those 50 and older, it can cause a serious and potentially fatal infection of the brain and spinal cord. The most common symptoms are headache, fever, muscle aches and extreme fatigue. Symptoms of more severe illness can also include changes in mental status and muscle weakness. 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 nyc.gov/health or call 311.