Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus have been found in parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn. Although no human cases of the virus have been reported, it’s wise to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. The New York City Health Department recommends using an insect repellent containing picaridin, DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR353. It’s particularly important to protect yourself if you’re going to be outside in the early morning or evening when mosquitoes are most active or if you’re going to be in an area where mosquitoes are plentiful, such as marshes, lakes, streams and parks.
For children younger than 3 years old, check with your pediatrician about recommended repellents. DEET is not recommended for children younger than 6 months; while oil of lemon eucalyptus is not for recommended for children 3 or younger.
Reduce your risk of mosquito bites by keeping your skin covered with long-sleeved shirts, pants. Check your window screens and repair any tears. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant, standing water, so you’ll want to keep your gutters clean and draining freely and remove or empty all containers around your house. Keep weeds and grass cut low and change your pet’s water bowl daily. Citronella torches and candles sometimes discourage mosquitoes while large floor fans can help blow mosquitoes away from small outdoor areas.
The New York City Health Department applied larvicide in early July to Staten Island marshes and is spraying non-residential areas to control mosquitoes. Report standing water (a violation of NYC health code) and areas where you suspect mosquitoes are breeding to the NYC health department by calling 311 or going to nyc.gov.
The West Nile virus, which originated in Africa, was first seen in New York City in 1999. Since then, it has spread across the North American continent. An estimated 80 % of people who are infected with the West Nile virus, which also affects birds and mammals, show no symptoms. People who are sickened by the virus may show symptoms between two and 15 days after they’re bitten and typically experience fever, headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, and general flu-like aches. A very small percentage of West Nile cases are very serious and may affect the central nervous system and brain, causing paralysis, encephalitis or meningitis. Very young and elderly people, as well as those taking immunosuppression drugs, may be more susceptible to serious West Nile infections.
If you think you may be infected with West Nile virus, contact your physician as soon as possible.