Human Case of West Nile Virus Prompts Renewed Health Warnings

Preliminary Tests Reveal Suffolk County Woman is State's First WNV Case Outside NYC

Albany, NY, September 6, 2001 – A 49 year old Suffolk County woman has tested positive for West Nile virus based on preliminary laboratory findings, State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., said today. This is the first known human case of West Nile virus to occur this year in New York State outside of New York City.

The presumptive diagnosis of West Nile virus is based on preliminary screening tests conducted by the State Health Department's Wadsworth Center laboratories and the patient's clinical symptoms. Confirmatory testing also will be performed.

"This latest human case of West Nile virus reinforces the urgency of our repeated calls for people to protect themselves against mosquito bites and to continue to eliminate standing water around their properties where mosquitoes breed," Dr. Novello said. "Mosquito precautions are especially important for individuals age 50 or older who are most likely to suffer serious complications from West Nile virus; however, all New Yorkers should take steps to reduce their risk."

To prevent mosquito bites:

  • Minimize time spent outdoors when mosquitoes are most active and feeding, such as between dusk and dawn.
  • Wear long pants, shirts with long sleeves and socks to reduce the amount of exposed skin.
  • Consider applying a mosquito repellent containing DEET to your clothing and any exposed skin if you will be spending time outdoors; however always use DEET products carefully, especially with children. Use only the amount and concentrations necessary for your particular situation and be aware of the possible adverse health effects.
  • If you enjoy outdoor activities such as gardening, consider purchasing special clothing made of a mosquito netting material to allow you to stay cool while protecting you from bites.

So far this year, four human cases of West Nile virus have occurred in New York State: two in Staten Island, one in Queens and the latest case, in Nesconset, Suffolk County. The patient began experiencing symptoms including headache, fever, stiff neck and a rash on August 23 and was hospitalized on August 27. She has since been discharged and is recovering.

Suffolk County has experienced a particularly high level of West Nile virus activity during 2001, including a majority of the State's confirmed West Nile virus–positive birds (161 of 318); 38 (of 129) infected mosquito pools and two confirmed cases in horses. A total of 12 counties in the State and all five boroughs of New York City have confirmed West Nile virus findings in birds and/or mosquitoes.

9/6/01–96 OPA