West Nile virus has been found in more than 600 mosquito pools across the state this year, a significant increase over 2011, but none so far in the Capital Region, state officials said Monday.
The first death attributed to West Nile virus in the state was reported in Onondaga County on Monday, where an elderly person died from the virus that comes from birds and is spread by mosquitoes.
Four human West Nile cases were reported in the state as of late last week: one case in New York City area; one in Suffolk County on Long Island; one case in Onondaga County; and one case in Oswego County.
Berkshire County, Mass., will be spraying for mosquitoes this week and continuing through Aug. 28 in Pittsfield and several other towns after several pools of mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile virus, according to BerkshireEagle.com.
“We know it’s here,” said Peter Constantakes, a New York state Health Department spokesman, about West Nile-bearing mosquitoes in Capital Region counties.
He said the reported number of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus often depends on the level of mosquito surveillance being conducted in a given county. For example, no mosquito surveillance is currently conducted in Saratoga County, Constantakes said.
The state is reporting a significant increase in the number of mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile this summer as compared with 2011. Last year, 453 mosquito pools were found to have mosquitoes carrying West Nile, while already this year 605 mosquito pools tested have had West Nile carrying mosquitoes, Constantakes said. Last year two people in the state died from West Nile virus.
The level of West Nile virus is much lower in New York state than in Dallas County, Texas, where 155 human cases have been reported along with 10 deaths. A warmer than normal winter in many parts of the country, along with heavy rains in some areas, have resulted in a national increase in West Nile virus cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 693 human West Nile cases this year and 26 deaths in the United States.
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause serious illness and occasionally death, according to the state Health Department.
“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,” says a Health Department statement.
“Severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis) causes fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, headaches, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma,” the statement says.
Health Department officials say one in 150 persons infected with West Nile virus will experience more severe cases of the disease. Older people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s are often more susceptible to more severe cases of West Nile virus, officials say.
State and federal health officials recommend applying insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus to protect against mosquito bites when outdoors.
People are also advised to take steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes around a home or property, including removing standing water in yards.
Health Department recommendations to reduce the number of mosquitoes around a home include:
Dispose of used tires, tin cans, ceramic pots or similar containers in which water collects.
Drill holes in bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.
Make sure gutters are clear of obstruction and drain properly.
Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs, and drain water from pool covers.