State Health Commissioner Visits Cicero Swamp to Raise Awareness About West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis This Summer

SYRACUSE, NY – June 20, 2007 – New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today kicked off a warm summer day by visiting the Cicero Swamp in Onondaga County to raise awareness about West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and what New Yorkers can do to protect against mosquito-borne illness.

In 2006, there were 23 cases of West Nile Virus reported in New York State, including four deaths. This is a decline from the 38 cases and four deaths reported in 2005. There were two fatal human cases of EEE reported in 1971 and 1983.

"Since 2000, when the West Nile Virus was first discovered in New York State, we have led the nation in our surveillance efforts to identify and fight West Nile Virus," said Commissioner Daines. "Local mosquito surveillance and public health education efforts conducted by the Onondaga County Health Department have proven to be one of the most comprehensive prevention programs in the state for mosquito-borne disease."

The Cicero Swamp in Onondaga County was selected to highlight the state's surveillance efforts because EEE has been detected in mosquito pools for the past four years. The presence of the EEE virus in the environment is of particular interest to scientists because of its high fatality rate for both humans and horses. There have been several reports of EEE cases in horses over the past several years, some that have resulted in death, from surrounding counties.

Cynthia B. Morrow, M.D., Commissioner of Health, Onondoga County Health Department, welcomed Dr. Daines on his first visit as State Health Commissioner to Onondaga County. "We look forward to working together as partners to improve the health of all New Yorkers," Dr. Morrow said.

Last year, more than 6,900 mosquito pools from throughout the state were submitted to the Department's Wadsworth Laboratory for testing. Testing of these pools identified the presence of West Nile Virus and other arboviruses in many areas of the state.

In addition to mosquito surveillance, the state and local health departments collect reports of dead birds. Dead birds, particularly crows, continue to be an excellent indicator of the presence of West Nile virus. The State toll-free number to report dead birds is 1-866-537-BIRD. Only a limited number of birds will be collected for testing.

The following precautions can decrease the risk of mosquito bites, and reduce mosquito breeding sites:

  • Dispose of all water-holding containers, including tin cans, plastic containers and ceramic pots.
  • Remove all discarded tires on your property. Used tires have become one the most common mosquito breeding grounds.
  • 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 at least every four days.
  • 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.
  • Make sure that all doors and windows have screens and that the screens are in good repair.

To protect yourself and your family, take steps to prevent mosquito bites. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect the skin. Avoid the outdoors during the peak mosquito activity periods between dusk and dawn. The federal Centers for Disease Control recommend using insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Always follow the label directions when using insect repellent.

For more information please visit the Department Web site at www.health.ny.gov or the Onondoga County website at www.ongov.net.