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Suffolk reports first confirmed human cases of West Nile virus this year

The first human cases of West Nile virus in Suffolk County this year were reported today by Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken.

Three Suffolk residents have been stricken with the mosquito-borne virus, Tomarken said in a press release issued late this afternoon.

They were residents of Brookhaven, Islip and Smithtown, according to the health commissioner. All three were hospitalized as a result of the illness, but all have since been released, he said. Two were over age 50 and one was under. Two were fell ill in late August and the third in September.

“There is no discernible trend,” Tomarken said. “We know only about the cases in which the patient sought treatment and we received laboratory confirmation of West Nile virus. There may be many more residents who acquired West Nile virus, but we never learned about them because they didn’t seek medical attention or they sought attention but lab tests weren’t ordered.”

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is estimated that 20 percent of those who become infected will develop clinically noticeable symptoms of West Nile virus disease. Mild symptoms may include fever, headache and body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. More severe symptoms include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Residents who experience symptoms are advised to visit their health-care providers.

West Nile virus can be fatal. Individuals who are most at risk for severe infection include those over 50 years of age and those with chronic illness or compromised immune systems. These individuals are urged to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes during the season.

Among the recommendations: use insect repellent containing DEET*, spray clothing with repellent containing permethrin, avoid going outside from dusk to dawn when most mosquitoes are active, wear long sleeves and long pants when nighttime activity is unavoidable, eliminate standing water from flower pots, clogged gutters, recycle bins, birdbaths, toys, swimming pool and hot tub covers. Mosquito season extends from June 1 through November 1.

The number of human cases of West Nile virus varies each year. Suffolk County reported five human cases in 2015, one in 2014, and four in both 2011 and 2013. Comparatively, the county reported 14 human cases in 2012 and 25 in 2010, a year in which the virus claimed three lives.

Individuals who have medical questions related to West Nile virus may call the Department of Health Services: 631-854-0333.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.

To learn how to stop mosquitoes from breeding in your yard, watch this video:

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.