First West Nile Virus-Infected Mosquito Pool Confirmed

Officials Stress Continued Importance of Mosquito Reduction Strategies

Albany, July 5, 2002 – West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitoes in New York State for the first time this year, and New Yorkers must continue to be diligent about reducing places around their property where mosquitoes breed, State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H., said today.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hyigene reported that West Nile virus was identified in a mosquito pool collected on June 25, 2002 from the Saw Mill Marsh. Coupled with previous findings of 16 infected birds from seven counties across the State (Albany, Erie, Monroe, Nassau, Niagara, Ontario, and Rockland), the new findings suggests that West Nile virus is circulating widely in New York, increasing the potential for human illness.

"Our past experience suggests that the risk of human cases of West Nile virus increases during July and August in our State," Dr. Novello said. "This confirmation of West Nile virus in mosquitoes should remind all New Yorkers that we must continue to work to reduce the potential for serious illness. Help protect yourself by cleaning up standing water and leaf debris around your yard where mosquitoes may breed."

Human health risk from West Nile virus is highest when the amount of virus intensifies in a particular location. Therefore, all New Yorkers are urged to help interrupt the infection cycle between birds and mosquitoes by taking steps to reduce areas of standing water around their properties where mosquitoes can breed.

Dead birds, particularly crows, continue to be an excellent indicator of the presence of West Nile virus. Persons who notice dead birds, especially dead crows, are encouraged to report the sighting, including details about where the bird is located, to their local health department. Even if the bird is not collected and tested, the report itself will provide vital information.

Dead birds also may be reported to a toll-free number: 1-866-537-BIRD.

The following strategies are recommended to reduce mosquito breeding sites:

  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots and similar water-holding containers.
  • Remove all discarded tires on your property. Used tires have become the most common mosquito breeding ground in the country.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.
  • Make sure gutters drain properly, and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Change the water in bird baths.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
  • Drain water from pool covers.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate stagnant water that collects on your property; clean up leaf litter and similar organic debris.

To keep mosquitoes from getting inside the home, persons should make sure that all their doors and windows have screens and that the screens are in good repair. Use of an insect repellent containing DEET will help reduce the chance of mosquito bites; however DEET products should be used only according to label instructions. Persons at highest risk of serious illness from West Nile virus, particularly the elderly, may wish to limit the amount of time spent outdoors between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active and feeding.

The New York State Department of Health has many informational materials about West Nile virus and how New Yorkers can help to "Fight the Bite." Those materials are posted on the Department's website: http://www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/westnile/index.htm

7/5/02-69 OPA