With The Level of West Nile Virus in Mosquitoes Increasing, Health Department Urges New Yorkers, Especially Those at Higher Risk for Severe Disease, To Protect Themselves from Mosquito Bites

More mosquitoes are testing positive for the West Nile virus, putting New Yorkers at risk; residents are urged to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites

The Health Department has doubled its larviciding across the city and is spraying pesticide in areas where surveillance indicates increased mosquito activity

Residents are encouraged to remove and report standing water around their residences

August 16, 2018 – The Health Department today announced that more mosquitos are testing positive for West Nile virus across the city, and continues to remind residents to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites. West Nile virus can cause severe illness, including meningitis and encephalitis most often in individuals over age 50 or those with a weakened immune system. Milder symptoms include headache, fever, fatigue, and rash. Since West Nile virus arrived in New York City in 1999, over 1/3 of New York City patients with severe illness were admitted to the intensive care unit, and 14 percent have died. 

The Health Department does daily and weekly surveillance at mosquito traps across the city. Over the past few weeks, the West Nile virus activity has rapidly increased. In response, the Health Department is expanding community outreach, doing additional pesticide spraying where needed, and doubled ground larviciding in parks, cemeteries, and residential areas.  Learn more about Health Department’s mosquito control program

“Wet, hot weather has increased mosquito activity in New York City, but protecting yourself is as simple as wearing repellent and protective clothing and removing or reporting standing water that may harbor mosquitos” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “New York City has one of the most comprehensive mosquito control programs in the nation. From the beginning of June, we have been aggressively larviciding and spraying pesticide to control the mosquito population. In response to the increased mosquito activity, we are enhancing outreach and mosquito control.”

"I join the New York City Department of Health in urging New Yorkers to protect themselves from mosquito bites during these summer months," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "A few steps such as wearing repellent and protective clothing, or calling 311 to report puddles of water, will go a long way in ensuring our communities are protected from the West Nile Virus."
“As we move into late summer with an extremely wet first half of August, it’s crucial that New Yorkers stay on guard against West Nile and report any standing water by calling 311,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “We have one of the oldest, best, and most proactive municipal health departments in the country, but we’re their eyes and ears. All of us need to call in standing pools and puddles where mosquitoes could lay eggs, take precautions to cut down on bug bites, and take symptoms of meningitis or encephalitis seriously and get them checked out.”
“Even with aggressive and ongoing mosquito control efforts underway, the moisture and humidity over the last several weeks has proven a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes, said Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal. “While some Upper West Siders have contended with year-round mosquito infestations, these mosquitoes are disease vectors and New Yorkers should take precautions to protect themselves and their neighbors from mosquitoes, like removing all sources of standing water and applying bug spray liberally.” 
While there are several personal protective measures that can be taken to prevent mosquito bites, such as applying repellent, 71 percent of NYC residents who are diagnosed with West Nile virus reported they did not take any precautions. 

It’s Not Just a Bite, What To Do To Prevent West Nile Virus

Around Your Residence

  • Mosquitos can lay hundreds of eggs at a time in bodies of standing water.  Remove standing water that collects on property, and remind or help neighbors to do the same. Standing water collects in unused tires, cans, clogged gutters and unused pools and pool covers.
  • Make sure windows have screens and repair or replace screens that have holes.

When Outdoors, Especially At Dusk And Dawn When the Types of Mosquitoes That Transmit West Nile Virus Are Most Active

  • Use insect repellent containing picaridin, DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus (not for children under 3), or products that contain the active ingredient IR3535.
  • Wear protective clothing outside, such as long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially during the evening, night and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active and looking to bite.
  • Remind your older loved ones to take precautions – they are at greatest risk for severe illness.

The Health Department has a robust mosquito surveillance program that is in place from early spring through the fall. Currently, there are 61 surveillance traps in the five boroughs. The agency’s mosquito control efforts are data driven and rely on mosquito trapping and testing results to determine areas of the city to spray pesticide and apply larvicide. The Health Department will conduct spraying in neighborhoods based on evidence of increasing West Nile viral activity in mosquitoes. Department employees use truck sprayers to kill adult flying mosquitoes.
The West Nile virus was first detected in New York City 19 years ago. Since 1999, the number of human cases has ranged from three to 47 annually. Of the 315 West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease cases overall, 44 (14 percent) have died due to their infection. New York City has over 40 species of mosquitos, but West Nile virus is transmitted primarily by several Culex species, including Culex salinarius and Culex pipiens.
Every year, as a part of normal outreach, the Health Department also conducts 80 to 90 presentations to educate communities about mosquito-borne illnesses. Community and civic groups can request presentations on West Nile virus and other health topics.
To further reduce mosquito populations, the Health Department also removes standing water and applies larvicide to sites that cannot be emptied or drained; investigates standing water complaints filed through 311; and educates the public about mosquito-borne illnesses through outreach.

About West Nile Virus

West Nile virus infection can cause a mild or moderate febrile illness; and most (80 percent) of those infected have no symptoms at all. In some people, particularly those 50 and older or who have weakened immune systems, West Nile virus can cause a serious and potentially fatal infection of the brain (encephalitis) and spinal cord (meningitis). 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 requiring hospitalization. If you think you have symptoms of West Nile virus, contact or see your doctor.

For more information visit the Health Department’s mosquito page

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MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/ Danielle De Souza: (347) 396 4177, 
PressOffice@health.nyc.gov.