NY Public Health Officials Work to Combat West Nile Virus

With summer (and mosquitoes) in the air, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is once again working to combat insect-borne diseases like West Nile Virus (WNV) with a series of aerial sprayings throughout the week, covering non-residential sections of Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx throughout the week.

As of writing, several mosquitoes have tested positive for WNV in Glen Oaks, Queens, New Dorp Beach, Staten Island, and in Suffolk County around the towns of South Huntington and Selden.

City health officials stress that they are spraying mosquito-heavy areas with a non-toxic bacteria that targets mosquito larvae to lower the overall mosquito population, but added that people with serious respiratory conditions should consider avoiding impacted parts of the city or stay indoors while the spraying takes place.

Click here for a complete list of when and where these sprayings will take place.

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne virus that first made an appearance in the Western Hemisphere in New York City in the summer of 1999. Epidemiologists believe the disease was introduced to American shores through infected birds or mosquitoes. The virus is transmitted to domestic mosquitoes when they feed on an infected bird and that infection can be passed to humans if they are in turn bit by an infected mosquito.

While in extreme cases (less than 1 percent of all infections), WNV can cause encephalitis (swelling of the brain) or meningitis (swelling of the brain and spinal cord’s lining), these reactions are extremely rare, but are most common among individuals aged 60 or older and prove fatal in about 10 to 15 percent of all patients hospitalized with West Nile Encephalitis – about 1 in every 1,000 cases.

Approximately 80 percent of people infected with WNV will never show symptoms, while about 20 percent of those infected might experience headaches, soreness, fever and fatigue for several days to several weeks after being bit by an infected mosquito.

Last year, there were five confirmed cases of WNV, leading to three hospitalizations and no fatalities.

How Do I Know If I Am Infected With WNV?

Since symptoms are typically minor, most people infected with WNV do not require medical attention. However older people who experience a mosquito bite and the following symptoms: fever, headaches, stiff neck, confusion, muscle weakness, or light sensitivity, should contact their doctor for further tests.

What Can I Do to Avoid WNV?

Public health officials believe the best way to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus is by taking steps to lower New York’s mosquito population. While anti-larval sprayings in and around the city’s marshlands are a good first step, New York City is home to more than 70 mosquito species, each one with its own breeding patterns.   Common Breeding Grounds for Mosquitoes

To that end, every New Yorker can take steps to safeguard the city by removing mosquito breeding grounds from their property using the following guidelines.

Additionally, you can limit your exposure to mosquito bites by using non-toxic bug repellants, wearing long sleeve shirts and pants and limiting your time in mosquito-heavy areas during dusk and dawn, when mosquito activity is highest.

SelectCare’s staff takes public health issues like West Nile Virus seriously and works closely with our home health aides, LPNs and RNs to ensure that our clients can safely enjoy the summer months. We applaud the proactive work of the NYC DoH to combat this problem and continue to work closely with public health officials to provide timely, accurate information to our clients and their loved ones.

To learn more about how our staff works assists in these important public health campaigns, call SelectCare today.