State urges residents to take precautions against mosquito bites - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

State urges residents to take precautions against mosquito bites


ALBANY, N.Y. – Though the West Nile virus has not been discovered in mosquito pools in the Capital Region this year, State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, is urging all New Yorkers to take 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," Shah said.  "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."

To date this year, a total of 20 mosquito pools have tested positive for West Nile virus across the state. Of the 20, West Nile virus has been discovered in mosquito pools in five regions, with Onondaga County reporting one, Nassau County reporting two, Rockland County reporting two, Suffolk County reporting four and the New York City Department of Health reporting eleven. There have been no reported human cases, though there were 107 reported human cases of West Nile virus statewide and nine deaths in 2012.

Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus has not been detected in any mosquito samples tested this year. No human cases were reported this last year and that remains true thus far. There have been, however, three confirmed deaths from the disease in the state in the past four years.

Experts say that there is no commercially available human vaccine for either of the potentially deadly viruses, so it is important to take measures to avoid being bitten in order to minimize the risk of contracting either. They warn that this is particularly true after the mosquito population increase that state has seen in recent months.

"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."

To protect against mosquito bites and potential exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses, experts recommend:

  • Applying insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Taking steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes around a home or property, including eliminating standing water in yards.
  • Wearing shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for a long period of time.
  • Disposing of used tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers in which water collects.
  • Drilling holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors to avoid water collection.
  • Making sure roof gutters drain properly and clean clogged gutters.
  • Turning over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Changing the water in bird baths twice a week.
  • Cleaning vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
  • Cleaning and chlorinating swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
  • Draining water from pool covers.

More on mosquito-borne illnesses from The New York State Department of Health:

West Nile Virus

  • Many people who contract the 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

  • EEE 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. 


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