State Health Commissioner urges New Yorkers to take precautions against mosquito bites as West Nile Virus arrives

By WBNG News

Credit: MGN Online

State Health Commissioner urges New Yorkers to take precautions against mosquito bites as West Nile Virus arrives

July 23, 2013 Updated Jul 23, 2013 at 2:59 PM EST

(WBNG Binghamton) With West Nile virus being discovered in mosquito pools in New York City and five other New York State counties, State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., on Tuesday urged all New Yorkers to take personal protective measures to avoid mosquito bites.

"We work closely with local health departments to help reduce the public's risk of exposure to mosquito-borne illness sources," Commissioner Shah said in a news release. "However, the most important thing an individual can do is take basic precautions to avoid mosquito bites that could cause serious illness such as West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis virus."

According to the news release issued Tuesday:

To date this year, a total of twenty mosquito pools have tested positive for West Nile virus across the state. Onondaga County has reported one (1), Nassau County has reported two (2), Rockland County has reported two (2), Suffolk County has reported four (4), and the New York City Department of Health has reported eleven (11). There have been no reported human cases. In 2012, there were 107 reported human cases of West Nile virus statewide and nine deaths.

To greatly minimize exposure to West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) recommends people take precautionary measures such as wearing shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for a long period of time. People are also advised to apply appropriate mosquito repellent and to remove all standing water from property.

"All the rain we've had so far across the state may not mean we will see more mosquito-borne disease, but it definitely means we will see more mosquitoes," said Bryon Backenson, director of the Department's Investigations and Vector Surveillance Units. "Taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites, and making sure water does not accumulate on your property, in gutters, birdbaths, toys, and other containers is a great way to not only minimize the risk of acquiring disease, but also to minimize the nuisance of mosquitoes in your backyard."

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause serious illness and occasionally death. Many people who contract West Nile virus do not experience any type of illness; an estimated 20 percent of people who become infected will develop mild symptoms including fever, headache and body aches, and possibly a skin rash or swollen lymph glands. Severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis) causes symptoms such as high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, headaches, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma. It is estimated that one in 150 persons infected with the West Nile virus will experience more severe cases of the disease.

Eastern equine encephalitis is a rare but serious viral disease spread by mosquitoes that can affect people and horses. People of all ages are at risk for infection with the EEE virus, but people over age 50 and younger than age 15 are at greatest risk for developing severe disease. Most people bitten by an infected mosquito will not develop any symptoms. Severe cases of EEE infection begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and coma. Approximately a third of patients who develop EEE die. Many patients who survive EEE infection experience mild to severe brain damage.

Eastern equine encephalitis virus has not been detected in any mosquito samples tested to date this year, and there have been no human cases. There were no reported human cases last year, but there have been three confirmed deaths from the disease in New York in the past four years.

There is no commercially available human vaccine for either West Nile virus or EEE. The best way to protect yourself is to keep mosquitoes from biting you.

To protect against mosquito bites and potential exposure to West Nile virus and EEE, DOH and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend applying insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Individuals should always follow the label directions when using insect repellents. People are also advised to take steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes around a home or property, including eliminating standing water in yards.

In addition, New Yorkers are urged to:

• Dispose of used tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers in which water collects;

• Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors. Make sure roof gutters drain properly and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall;

• Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use and change the water in bird baths twice a week;

• Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds; and

• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs, and drain water from pool covers.
 

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