State Health Commissioner Urges New Yorkers to Protect Themselves Against Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 26, 2012) - Warm summer weather brings with it increased mosquito activity across New York State. To raise public awareness, State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H. today urged New Yorkers to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and to protect themselves from potential exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) viruses.

"It is important that all New Yorkers be aware of mosquito-borne illnesses and the precautions they can take to avoid exposure to these diseases," said Commissioner Shah.

To date this year, a total of 271 mosquito pools have tested positive for West Nile virus in counties across the state, including Bronx (1), Erie (43), Kings (2), Nassau (18), Onondaga (2), Orange (2), Oswego (3), Queens (20), Richmond (71), Rockland (48), Suffolk (57) and Westchester (4). Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus has not been detected in any samples tested to date. However, a horse in St. Lawrence County tested positive yesterday (July 25) for EEE. No human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus have been reported this year in New York State. The New York City Department of Health confirmed today the first human case of West Nile virus in the state. In 2011 there were 44 cases of West Nile Virus, two of which were fatal and one fatal EEE case.

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; 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 cases of the disease.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a rare but serious viral disease spread by mosquitoes that can affect people and horses. Five cases have been diagnosed in humans in New York State since 1971, including a case in each of the last three years, and all have been fatal. Prior to 2009, there had not been a human case detected in the State in more than 25 years.

People of all ages are at risk for infection with the EEE virus, but people over age 50 and younger than age 15 are at greatest risk for developing severe disease. Most people bitten by an infected mosquito will not develop any symptoms. Severe cases of EEE infection begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and coma. Approximately a third of patients who develop EEE die. Many patients who survive EEE infection experience mild to severe brain damage. There is no commercially available human vaccine for EEE. The best way to protect yourself is to keep mosquitoes from biting you.

To protect against mosquito bites and potential exposure to these viruses, the State Health Department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend applying insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Individuals should always follow the label directions when using insect repellents. People are also advised to take steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes around a home or property, including eliminating standing water in yards.

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; and
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs, and drain water from pool covers.

For more information on West Nile virus visit:

For more information on Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus visit: