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New York City Seal
Press Release
NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
Office of Communications
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin/Andrew Tucker
Friday, September 20, 2002
(212) 788-5290
(877) 640-1347

WEST NILE VIRUS UPDATE

75-Year-Old Bronx Man is Second West Nile-Related Death in NYC this Year;
Three New Cases Bring City's Total to 19 for Season


The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) today announced three cases of West Nile virus (WNV), including one death, a 75-year-old Bronx man - the second WNV-related death in New York City this year. Additionally, two Staten Island residents, an 82-year-old man and a 36-year-old man, tested positive for WNV. Both individuals are home and are doing well. There have now been 19 cases of WNV, 13 of which have occurred in persons over the age of 65. Nationally, there have been more than 1,700 cases of WNV and 84 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The 75-year-old man, from the Parkchester area of the Bronx, was hospitalized on September 5 with symptoms of encephalitis including fever, weakness and confusion; he died on September 17. Test results received late yesterday confirmed a West Nile infection.

The 82-year-old man, from Fox Hills/Rosebank, Staten Island, experienced fever, weakness and confusion, was seen in a local emergency department, and was diagnosed with West Nile encephalitis by a private physician, but was not admitted to the hospital. The 36-year-old man, from the Woodrow area of Staten Island, was hospitalized on September 12 with symptoms of aseptic meningitis including headache and fever. With the exception of the first patient discovered this season, an 84-year-old Rosedale, Queens man - who is still hospitalized - and the two individuals who have died, all other patients with WNV diagnosed so far this year are doing well.

No known New York City cases have been acquired through blood transfusions or organ transplants. Ongoing intense surveillance will take place over the weekend to determine if spraying will be necessary.

DOHMH Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, encouraged all New Yorkers - especially those over the age of 50 - to continue taking precautions against mosquitoes, such as wearing long-sleeve clothing between dusk and dawn, ensuring that screens are tight-fitting and not torn, and consider using a mosquito repellent when outdoors.

Symptoms of West Nile Virus
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 three 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 one in a hundred 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
DOHMH advises 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 and 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.

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

For more information on personal precautions against mosquitoes or how to eliminate standing water, visit http://www.nyc.gov/health/wnv or call the City's WNV toll free Information Line at 1-877-WNV-4NYC.

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