West Nile Virus spotted in New York

The West Nile virus was first discovered in New York State in 1999, and since 2000 490 cases have been recorded state-wide, thirty seven of these cases were fatal, according to the New York State Department of Health. There have been 13 reported cases of the West Nile virus so far this year in the state, including two deaths of elderly people.

The New York State Health Department found evidence of the West Nile virus in two different mosquito pools in Oswego County last week. Oswego County Health Department Public Director Jiancheng Huang said there are now eight pools that have tested positive for the disease.

“Mainly they are located in what they call the Big Bay and Toad Harbor Swamp areas,” Huang said. “This year they are quite focused there.”

Oswego is one of five counties in New York that have confirmed cases of the virus so far this year.  Worries arose when an Oswego County resident contracted the disease this past August. So far, that is the only reported case in the county this year.

The Health Department said that symptoms of the virus take three to 14 days to become noticeable, and up to three weeks with people who have weaker immune systems. Minor symptoms may include fever, headache, stomach ache, joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting and swollen lymph glands. A person’s health usually improves after several days, but they may feel tired, weak and generally unwell for weeks. Less than one percent of infected people will suffer severe symptoms, and death is a rare occurrence.

The county is taking measures to slow the spread of the disease. The Health Department conducted aerosol sprays of the Big Bay and Toad Harbor Swamp areas on Sept. 11, however the sprays do not kill all infected mosquitoes. Huang said that it is unlikely that there will be any more sprayings this year.

“The weather is getting cold and after the first severe frost, the mosquitos will be gone,” Huang said.

County Health Department officials say that people should still take the following precautions to minimize the chance of getting a West Nile infection: use insect repellant properly and read the label for proper instructions, limit outdoor activities between dusk and dawn (the daily height of mosquito activity), wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, shoes and socks when outside during the nighttime hours and make sure no outside window or door screen is ripped where mosquito access to indoors is possible.

In addition, to slow the spawning of new breeds of mosquitoes, residents are urged to reduce or eliminate standing water from outdoor objects such as wheelbarrows, pails, swimming pool covers and gutters.

So far this year, other mosquito-caused diseases like Eastern equine encephalitis have not been reported in humans in New York. Agriculture officials in Albany said last week that they are recommending horses to be vaccinated against EEE, as well as West Nile virus. Health officials said they are waiting for the first fall frost for some relief.