New Yorkers Urged to Continue to Guard Against Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes Following Flooding, Heavy Rains

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 16, 2011) - State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., today urged all New Yorkers to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, especially since the recent flooding in many areas of the state has created conditions that could increase mosquito populations.

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

"Mosquitoes should not be considered harmless, and all New Yorkers should take steps to protect themselves from being bitten during the coming months," Commissioner Shah said.

The State Department of Health (DOH) has identified a total of 241 mosquito pools that have tested positive for West Nile Virus in 11 counties conducting mosquito surveillance, -- Erie, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Rockland, Orange, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk. New York City has reported 176 mosquito pools that have tested positive for West Nile virus.

DOH's mosquito surveillance program has also confirmed the presence of EEE virus in mosquitoes collected in Onondaga, 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.

To date, there have been 11 confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in New York State this year, including eight in New York City (every borough except Staten Island) and single cases in Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties. Reports of West Nile Virus tend to increase in late summer through mid-fall. There were 76 reported human cases statewide at this time last year.

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

Insect repellents 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 of age. 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: