West Nile mosquitoes detected in Brooklyn
City urges residents to cover up.
Culex mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus have been discovered in New York City Health Department monitoring traps in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, the city said Wednesday afternoon.
The Health Department is urging people to protect themselves from mosquito bites using insect repellent and protective clothing.
While most people infected with West Nile suffer no long-term damage, about 20 percent come down with either West Nile Fever or more severe neuroinvasive effects, ranging from headache or neck stiffness to convulsions, encephalitis, meningitis or death. These effects are more common in people 50 and older or those who have weakened immune systems.
So far, no human infections have come to the attention of the Health Department, which is laying out more traps in the areas affected. There are currently more than 61 surveillance sites across the city and 132 traps.
The city started proactively spraying larvicide into catch basins in June, sending helicopters out over marsh areas of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Larvicide kills mosquito larvae before they can bite. For this, the city is using VectoBac GS, which contains naturally occurring bacteria and has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Larviciding has taken place in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Marine Park and Fresh Creek Basin.
If the monitoring traps show persistent West Nile, however, the city will spray pesticide to kill adult mosquitoes in targeted areas. Before doing so, the city sends out an alert at least 24 hours in advance and hangs up warning posters. NYPD cars or other vehicles escort the applicator’s trucks and urge people to go indoors to avoid exposure to pesticide.
“We want New Yorkers to enjoy the outdoors this summer, but we also want people to protect themselves against mosquito bites by wearing insect repellent and covering their arms and legs,” Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in a release.
“We also encourage everyone to remove any standing water that may harbor mosquitoes or call 311 for standing water they cannot manage themselves,” Barbot added.
The most common symptoms of mild West Nile infection are headache, fever, muscle aches and extreme fatigue. Symptoms can also include changes in mental status and muscle weakness requiring hospitalization. People with symptoms of West Nile virus should contact their doctor.
Thirty people citywide suffered from neuroinvasive effects last year, with six in Brooklyn, according to the Health Department. Six people across the city came down with West Nile Fever, including one in Brooklyn. In Queens, 15 residents came down with neuroinvasive disease, and three with West Nile Fever.
Of the 259 West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease cases since 1999, 38 (15 percent) died due to their infection.
New York City has more than 40 species of mosquitos, but West Nile virus is transmitted primarily by several Culex species, including Culex salinarius and Culex pipiens.
How to reduce exposure to mosquitoes
- Use an approved insect repellent containing picaridin, DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus (not for children under 3), or products that contain the active ingredient IR3535.
- Make sure windows have screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
- Eliminate any standing water from your property and dispose of containers that can collect water. Standing water is a violation of the New York City Health Code.
- Make sure roof gutters are clean and drained properly.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. Keep them empty or covered if not in use. Drain water that collects in pool covers.
For more information about West Nile virus, or to report standing water, visit nyc.gov/health/wnv or call 311.