New Yorkers Urged to Guard Against Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus Identified in Mosquitoes in New York, One Death from EEE Reported in Central New York

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 15, 2011) - State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., today urged all New Yorkers to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites after mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus have been identified in areas of the state. A 4-year-old child from Oswego County died of EEE on Sunday.

Although mosquitoes carrying disease can be found across the state, the highest risk areas for West Nile virus are on Long Island and New York City, and the highest risk areas for EEE are the Central New York counties of Onondaga, Oneida, Madison and Oswego. Both diseases can cause serious illness or death.

While there have been no confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in New York State this year, there were 13 reported human cases statewide at this time last year, and reports of this virus tend to increase in late summer through mid-fall. Cases of EEE are rare, and the single case of EEE identified in Oswego County is the only human case of EEE identified to date this summer.

"Mosquito bites should not be seen as harmless, and all New Yorkers should take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites over the remainder of the summer and through the fall," said Commissioner Shah.

The State Department of Health (DOH) has identified 23 mosquito pools that have tested positive for West Nile virus in areas across the state, including Erie, Onondaga, Rockland, Orange, Westchester and Nassau and Suffolk counties. New York City has reported 80 mosquito pools that have tested positive for West Nile virus.

The DOH's mosquito surveillance program has also confirmed the presence of EEE virus in mosquitoes collected in Oswego and Oneida counties in central New York. For the past two years there have been fatal human cases of EEE virus in Oswego and Onondaga counties, the first confirmed human cases of the disease in the state in more than 25 years. In recent years, EEE virus has also been found in mosquitoes in Suffolk County.

DOH recommends that New Yorkers should protect themselves when outdoors by using an effective mosquito repellent and wearing long pants and long sleeves. DOH and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend applying insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Insect repellants containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3, and products containing DEET should not be used on infants under two months. For children older than 2 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends products containing 10 percent to 30 percent DEET. Ten percent DEET provides protection for about 2 hours and 30 percent protects for about 5 hours. Choose the lowest concentration that will provide the required length of coverage. It is important to always follow the label directions when using insect repellent.

When indoors, New Yorkers are advised to keep doors closed and ensure that window screens are in place to prevent mosquitoes from infecting homes.

People are also advised to take steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes around a home or property, eliminate standing water in yards, and make sure all windows and doors have screens that are in good repair. In addition, New Yorkers are urged to:

  • Dispose of used tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers in which water collects.
  • Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors. Make sure roof gutters drain properly and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use, and change the water in bird baths twice a week.
  • Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
  • Drain water from pool covers.

In recent years, New York City and some counties have initiated mosquito control programs, including aerial spraying, to reduce public health risks. Residents should contact their local health department to obtain up-to-date information on mosquito control efforts in their county.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes that can affect people and horses. People who are infected may suffer a range of symptoms, from no symptoms to a mild, flu-like illness with fever, headaches and fatigue to serious illness involving seizures and, in rare cases, coma. More information on Eastern Equine Encephalitis is available at:

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause serious illness and occasionally death. Many people who contract West Nile virus do not experience any type of illness, and 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 disease. More information on West Nile virus is available at: