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New York City Seal
Press Release
New York City Department of Health
Office of Public Affairs
CONTACT: Edward Skyler/ Jordan Barowitz
Sandra Mullin (DOH)
Friday, May 24, 2002
(212) 788-2958
(212) 788-5290 (DOH)


Mayor Tells New Yorkers What They Can Do to Protect Themselves and Help Control West Nile Virus

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Thomas Frieden today announced New York City's West Nile virus (WNV) prevention and control plan and urged New Yorkers to protect themselves against mosquito bites during the summer. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Christopher Ward, Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Health and Hospital Corporation (HHC) President Dr. Benjamin Chu and Department of Sanitation (DOS) Commissioner John Doherty joined Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Frieden at Louis Valentine Park in Red Hook, Brooklyn, for the announcement.

"In just three years since the introduction of West Nile virus into New York City, we have in place one of the most sophisticated monitoring and control programs in the world," said Mayor Bloomberg. "In 1999, when the virus was first discovered, there were four deaths; in 2000 there was one death; and in 2001 there were no deaths, and that's the way we want to keep it. New Yorkers can help by reporting dead birds and significant areas of standing water, by removing objects that can contain standing water around their homes, and by taking personal measures to avoid mosquito bites."

"Each year, DOH's program has been increasingly prevention oriented, with less reliance on pesticides," Commissioner Frieden said. "This progress has been made possible by several innovations including state-of-the-art surveillance and laboratory testing. We can now pinpoint geographically viral activity in birds and mosquitoes before humans are infected and target prevention measures accordingly. And now that our laboratory is equipped to test mosquitoes and humans for the virus, we can turnaround test results more quickly, an advance that is critical to preventing further disease. These strides, combined with the public's participation in prevention, has put New York City at the forefront of West Nile virus control efforts."

"I want to assure New Yorkers that we at DEP have taken all prudent environmentally sound steps to control mosquitoes at our facilities," said Commissioner Christopher O. Ward. "In addition to assistying DOH with the larviciding of catch basins, DEP has implemented two innovative programs at our wastewater treatment plants -- the use of fish that eat mosquito larva and the installation of Mosquito Magnets, the latest technology that attracts and captures flying mosquitoes without harming beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, bees, butterflies and moths. And, we survey all of our facilities are surveyed to ensure that there are no areas or equipment that can hold standing water where mosquitoes might breed."

"Parks, working with the Mayor's Office of Operations, DOH and other City agencies, is committed to reducing the risk of illness from West Nile virus," said Commissioner Benepe. "We look forward to an active summer when millions of people will enjoy our parks with confidence that they are being protected from this disease."

"The Department of Sanitation has been very actively involved in the City's West Nile Virus abatement campaign," said Commissioner Doherty. "We have cleaned vacant lots where standing water has presented breeding opportunities for mosquitoes. We have assisted with the placement of larvicide in catch basins. And we have helped with public outreach by displaying warning posters on our collection trucks."

To control the West Nile virus, DOH will again rely mainly on larval control (larviciding) and reducing areas of standing water. Beginning this month, larvicide is being applied to parks, ponds, lakes, unused swimming pools, and wastewater treatment plants, and beginning in early June, will be applied to more than 135,000 catch basins citywide. Larvicide will be reapplied as needed throughout the mosquito-breeding season. This year, DOH will aggressively inspect and issue Notices of Violation for properties with significant areas of standing water that are deemed potentially harmful to public health.

West Nile Virus was first identified in New York City in 1999. In that year there were 45 cases, including four deaths. In 2000, 14 cases were identified with one fatality and in 2001, there were seven cases and no deaths.

Public Education

This summer, the City is conducting a public education campaign that will include posters, brochures, radio spots and a Public Health Youth Corps to promote the elimination of standing water around homes, the reporting of dead birds, and the need for personal protection measures, such as covering one's skin between dusk and dawn. Information on WNV can be obtained through the toll-free West Nile Virus Information Line 1-877-WNV-4NYC (1-877-968-4692) and at

Report dead birds to DOH at 1 (877)-WNV-4NYC (1-877-968-4692)
Report standing water to DOH at 1 (877)-WNV-4NYC (1-877-968-4692)

What New Yorkers Can do Around Their Homes to Protect Against West Nile Virus
  • Make sure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace all screens that have tears or holes.
  • Remove all discarded tires from your property.
  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar water-holding containers.
  • Make sure roof gutters drain properly. Clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. If not in use, keep empty and covered.
  • Drain water from pool covers.
  • Change the water in birdbaths every 3 to 4 days.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Eliminate any standing water that collects on your property.
  • Remind or help neighbors to eliminate breeding sites on their properties.
  • Some local hardware stores may carry a product called Mosquito DunkĀ® for use in areas of standing water around the home. If these products are purchased for home use, careful reading of the directions is recommended.
Bird and Mammal Surveillance

Animals will be monitored for infection and illness, with a focus primarily on dead birds, especially crows, and domestic animals, particularly horses. Veterinarians are required to report any suspected animal cases with neurological illnesses to DOH. Dead bird reports are essential to analyze and track the location of the virus, and the public is urged to report dead birds through DOH's WNV information line (1-877-WNV-4NYC) (1-877-968-4692) or website at Because not all dead birds are suitable for testing, however, the City will not pick up and test all dead birds that are reported. Dead birds that are not picked up by the City should be disposed of with gloves and double plastic bags.

Thus far, all New York City dead birds that have been tested have been negative. Birds in Rockland and Albany Counties in New York State, in New Haven, Connecticut and in Monmouth and Morris Counties in New Jersey however, have tested positive for WNV.

Human Surveillance and Provider Education

DOH will monitor hospital illnesses for suspected cases of viral encephalitis. DOH will test samples submitted by health care providers, and will continue to educate New York City health care providers about rapid reporting of suspected cases of encephalitis and other infectious diseases. In addition, DOH will implement active surveillance for WNV encephalitis and viral meningitis at City hospitals by contacting healthcare providers and all laboratories directly. City Health Information issues about West Nile virus and pesticides are available on the DOH's website at

Mosquito Surveillance and Control

Throughout the winter months, DOH tested adult mosquitoes to monitor the presence of WNV in over-wintering mosquitoes in New York City. All mosquitoes tested thus far have been negative. From June through October 2002, DOH will trap adult mosquitoes throughout the five boroughs. All mosquitoes collected will be tested for WNV at the DOH Public Health Laboratory.

While larval control will again be the City's first line of defense, if surveillance indicators suggest that the level of WNV activity poses a significant threat to human health, pesticide targeting adult mosquitoes (adulticide) will be considered for use. In 2001, DOH completed a comprehensive environmental impact study on the pesticides used for adult mosquito control, which can be found at If the application of pesticides to control adult mosquitoes becomes necessary, DOH will provide timely information to the public with application schedules, the type of pesticides being used, and how to avoid exposure.

The Comprehensive Mosquito Surveillance and Control Plan can be found on the DOH website at and further information on West Nile virus can be obtained by calling the City's toll-free WNV Information Line, 1-877-WNV-4NYC (1-877-968-4692).