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New York City Seal
Press Release
NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
Office of Communications
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin
Monday, September 2, 2002
(212) 788-5290
(877) 640-1347


First death due to West Nile Virus in New York City this Year

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) announced today the death of one individual, and the illnesses of two others due to West Nile virus. The deceased was a 73 year-old man who lived in Jackson Heights, Queens, and who reportedly spent time in the Hamptons. He was hospitalized on August 30th with encephalitis and died on September 1st. This is the first known West Nile virus related death in New York City this year. Four individuals have now been diagnosed with West Nile virus in New York City this year, including the deceased.

The other cases include a 71 year-old woman from the Schuylerville area of the Bronx who was hospitalized on August 23rd with meningitis and an 86 year-old woman from the Beechhurst area of Queens who was hospitalized on August 22nd with encephalitis. Both patients are hospitalized but are recovering and in stable condition. An 84 year-old man who was previously announced as having tested positive for West Nile virus remains hospitalized in critical condition.

New York City Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH said, "As the death of an otherwise healthy 73 year-old shows, West Nile virus can have tragic consequences for its victims. This is why New Yorkers over 50 years of age are especially advised to take precautions against mosquitoes by wearing long-sleeve clothing between dusk and dawn, ensuring that screens around the home are tight-fitting and without holes, and by using a mosquito repellent when outdoors."

In 1999 there were 45 human cases of WNV in New York City requiring hospitalization (four deaths), in 2000 there were 14 human cases of WNV in New York City (one death), and in 2001 there were seven cases of WNV requiring hospitalization (no deaths).

West Nile virus symptoms
West Nile virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). Most people who become infected with WNV do not experience symptoms or become ill. In some individuals, particularly the elderly, West Nile encephalitis can be a serious disease and is potentially fatal. Symptoms generally occur 3 to 14 days following the bite of an infected mosquito. Less than 1% of mosquitoes carry West Nile virus and most bites from infected mosquitoes probably do not result in infection. Approximately one in five exposed persons develop a flu- like illness and fewer than 1 in a hundred people become seriously ill. Therefore, people bitten by mosquitoes do not need to be tested for WNV but any individual who develops symptoms such as high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, severe headaches, or stiff neck should see a doctor immediately.

Recommendations to Prevent WNV
Dr. Frieden advised New Yorkers, especially those 50 and over, to take personal precautions against mosquitoes:

  • If outside between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, wear protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks.
  • Consider the use of an insect repellent containing DEET. USE DEET ACCORDING TO MANUFACTURER'S DIRECTIONS. As with chemical exposures in general, pregnant women should take care to avoid exposure to DEET whenever practical.
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.

New Yorkers are also encouraged to help "Mosquito-Proof New York City" by eliminating areas of standing water around their homes:

  • Make sure roof gutters drain properly.
  • Dispose of cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar water-holding containers.
  • Remove all discarded tires from property.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. If not in use, keep pools empty and covered.
  • Drain water from pool covers.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Change water in birdbaths every 3 to 4 days.
  • Eliminate any other areas of standing water that collects on your property;
  • Remind or help neighbors to eliminate breeding sites on their properties.

Summary of West Nile Virus in New York City to Date
New York City has a model West Nile Virus monitoring system, with more than 100 mosquito traps throughout the City and intensive monitoring for possible spread of the virus. Results of this system to date are given below:

Summary of West Nile Virus Findings to Date
WNV Positive
Mosquito Pools150211263378
Human Cases410030

For more information, call the City's West Nile virus information line 1-877-WNV-4NYC (1-877-968-4692) or visit