Suffolk County health officials are warning residents to eliminate all standing water in and around their homes and businesses after reporting that 19 mosquito samples collected July 27-28 tested postive for West Nile Virus.
That report, issued Friday afternoon, more than doubled the number of mosquito samples testing postive for the virus in Suffolk this year so far. A mosquito sample taken in Aquebogue was among the 19 infected samples. Prior to last week’s report, a total of 18 West Nile-positive mosquito samples had been collected in Suffolk this year.
It’s important to eliminate standing water because mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and near standing water — in things like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases. Even very small amounts of standing water can provide mosquito breeding areas.
The new West Nile samples, all Culex pipiens-restuans, were collected from July 27-28, the county health department said in a press release Friday afternoon.
West Nile Virus, first detected in birds and mosquitoes in Suffolk County in 1999 and again each year thereafter, is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Since its initial detection in the United States in 1999, the virus has infected 43,937 people nationwide; a little under half of those infected had “neuroinvasive” disease producing neurological effects, which can be long-lasting or even permanent. There were 1,911 deaths attributed to West Nile from 1999 to 2015.
Most people infected with West Nile virus will experience mild or no symptoms, but some can develop severe symptoms — which usually occur three to 14 days after exposure — including high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis, according to Suffolk County Health Commissioner James Tomarken. The symptoms may last several weeks and neurological effects may be permanent. People over 50 years and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk. The infection can be fatal.
No humans or horses have tested positive for West Nile virus in Suffolk this year. A total of four birds have tested positive this year.
Health officials are keeping a watchful eye on another mosquito-borne disease, Zika Virus, which has been transmitted locally in the U.S. for the first time in Florida, where six people last month contracted Zika from mosquito bites in Miami.
Zika can also be transmitted sexually and by blood transfusions and there have been 16 cases of sexually transmitted Zika Virus in the U.S. by people infected in other countries or territories.
Zika causes no or only mild symptoms but a Zika infection during pregnancy can infect the fetus and cause microencephaly and other severe birth defects according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The mosquitoes that have spread Zika in South and Central America, the Caribbean and now Florida are Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Aedes aegypti has not been identified anywhere in New York State, according to state health officials. However officials believe another mosquito, Aedes albopictus, which is related to Aedes aegypti, can also transmit Zika. Aedes albopictus has been identified in NYC and four counties in New York outside of NYC: Suffolk, Nassau, Rockland and Westchester. To date, however, there have been no reported Zika infection from bites from this mosquito and it has not been found to be carrying Zika virus in the United States..
No mosquito samples have tested positive for Zika in New York.
There have been 533 human cases of Zika reported to New York State Department of Health, all of which were travel-associated. No cases of local mosquito-borne transmission have been identified in New York.