With summer heating up, officials on Long Island Monday asked for help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a battle against what they call an "aggressive" and "vicious" pest -- the Asian tiger mosquito.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said the insect, which arrived in the United States from Japan aboard ships carrying used tires and was first spotted in Texas in the 1980s, is known to transmit tropical diseases such as dengue fever.
"The prevalence of these mosquitoes increased an alarming 220 percent from 2010 to 2012 in samples collected in Nassau and Suffolk counties," Israel said at a news conference on the waterfront at North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington. "With the Asian tiger mosquito's presence quickly increasing on Long Island and throughout New York, the CDC and its partners in the federal government need to do all they can to protect Long Islanders."
Israel said preventive measures need to be taken before the situation becomes a public health issue.
A representative of the Atlanta-based CDC could not immediately be reached for comment.
Dr. Bruce Hirsch, a member of the Division of Infectious Diseases at North Shore-LIJ Health System, said that although the Asian tiger mosquito, with its distinctive black and white stripes, arrived on Long Island in 2003, it is considered a new threat. He said increasing heat related to climate change and increased international travel have caused new concerns about the bug.
The Asian tiger mosquito is particularly troubling because it bites during daylight hours, while other mosquitoes typically bite in the late afternoon and evening, Hirsch said.
Asian tiger mosquitoes were first identified in Nassau in 2003 through routine surveillance, and in Suffolk the following year, health officials said.
The first locally transmitted case of dengue fever reported in New York was confirmed in Suffolk County in November. Symptoms include severe muscle aches, pains and high temperatures; in some cases, the disease can be deadly, officials said.
"It is crucial that the CDC continue to provide localities with its technical and financial assistance," North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said.Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also attended the news conference.