Health Department Reports First Human Case Of West Nile Virus Infection For 2016 Season

New Yorkers, especially those 60 and older, should take precautions against mosquito bites

The Health Department has completed nine rounds of pesticide spraying and seven aerial larviciding treatments to reduce mosquito populations across the five boroughs


There is no local transmission of Zika virus by mosquitoes in New York City

September 12, 2016 – The Health Department today confirmed the season’s first human case of West Nile virus in a Brooklyn man who was diagnosed with encephalitis. The patient was over the age of 40 and has underlying medical conditions. Human cases of West Nile virus occur each year in New York City, typically between July and October. This first case of West Nile in NYC was identified about two weeks later in the season compared to previous years. A total of 318 New Yorkers have been diagnosed with West Nile virus since it was first found in the United States in 1999.

“This season’s first case of West Nile virus is a reminder to protect ourselves against mosquito bites,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Wearing mosquito repellent when you are outdoors, getting rid of standing water, and installing window screens will reduce your risk of getting bitten. New Yorkers age 60 and older or people with weakened immune systems should be especially careful as they are more likely to become seriously ill, and in rare cases die, if infected.”

This season, the Health Department has completed nine rounds of pesticide spraying and seven aerial larvicide treatments throughout the five boroughs to reduce the risk of West Nile and Zika viruses. To date, no Zika virus has been found in any mosquito in New York City. This past April, the de Blasio administration announced an aggressive, three-year, $21 million plan to protect New Yorkers from Zika. As part of that plan, the Health Department enhanced its ability to test for the Zika virus, launched a comprehensive awareness campaign, and expanded mosquito surveillance measures. Additionally, the Health Department doubled the number of mosquito surveillance traps citywide, which monitor mosquito populations and capture specimens for testing. The city has already conduced twice as many mosquito control treatments this season compared to this time last year to reduce mosquito activity in areas identified by our surveillance. More information about the city’s mosquito control program can be found here.

New York City has over 15 years of experience successfully trapping, testing and controlling mosquito populations and keeping New Yorkers safe from mosquito-borne diseases. The Mayor’s plan builds upon and expands the City’s existing infrastructure to combat West Nile Virus. Throughout the early spring and summer, the Health Department conducts regular mosquito surveillance. The Health Department has 120 surveillance traps in the five boroughs, including 60 permanent traps for the Aedes albopictus mosquito, which can possibly carry the Zika virus, and which the agency started trapping and testing for the first time this year.  The number of mosquitoes in a trap tells the Department the density of the mosquito population within a given area. Inspectors bring trapped mosquitoes back to the Public Health Lab to identify the different mosquito types and to test for West Nile and Zika viruses.

The Health Department’s mosquito control efforts are data driven and rely on our mosquito trapping and testing results to determine areas of the city to spray pesticide and larvicide. The city has already conducted twice as many mosquito control treatments this season compared to this time last year to reduce mosquito activity in areas identified by our surveillance. Neighborhoods are treated by helicopter, truck or backpacks if sufficient criteria are met – this includes high populations of Aedes albopictus, and positive cases of West Nile virus, which are transmitted by the Culex pipiens mosquito. 

About West Nile Virus
West Nile virus infection can cause a mild or moderate flu-like illness, or sometimes no symptoms at all. In some people, particularly those 60 and older, West Nile virus can cause a serious and potentially fatal infection of the brain and spinal cord. The most common symptoms are headache, fever, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue. Symptoms of more severe illness can also include changes in mental status and muscle weakness. If you think you have symptoms of West Nile virus, see your doctor right away. For more information about West Nile virus, and how to avoid it, visit nyc.gov/health/wnv or call 311.

Reducing Exposure to Mosquitoes
  • Consider limiting time outdoors between dusk and dawn in areas with significant mosquito populations.
  • Wear protective clothing when outdoors, and use an approved insect repellent containing picaridin, DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus (not for children under three), or products that contain the active ingredient IR3535.
  • Make sure windows have screens and repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
  • Eliminate any standing water from your property and dispose of containers that can collect water. Standing water is a violation of the New York City Health Code.
  • Make sure roof gutters are clean and draining properly.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. Keep them empty or covered if not in use; drain water that collects in pool covers.
  • Report standing water by calling 311 or visiting nyc.gov.
To learn more about the City’s mosquito control program, go to nyc.gov/health and search for “mosquitoes.” 

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez, (347) 396-4177
pressoffice@health.nyc.gov