A record number of West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes has been detected across all five boroughs, as well as in two individuals — one each in Queens and Brooklyn — the New York City Health Department announced Tuesday.
So far this summer, searches have led to 1,068 positive mosquito pools across the city — the highest number ever recorded — compared to 779 positive pools found at this time last year, the department said. An average of 77 mosquitoes have been caught in traps per day, up from 75 at this point last year, officials said.
“We are in the height of West Nile virus season, but there are things you can do to decrease your risk of being bitten,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Use an EPA registered insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, especially when outside at dusk and dawn when the types of mosquitoes that transmit [West Nile virus] are most active."
Over the past decade, an average of 16 people citywide have been diagnosed with West Nile annually, officials said. The department did not provide details on the conditions of the most recent two human cases.
In Suffolk County, 38 mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile virus this summer in Aquebogue, Bay Shore, Cold Spring Harbor, Copiague, Dix Hills, Holtsville, Islip, Lindenhurst, Melville, Nesconset, Port Jefferson Station, Selden, Setauket, West Babylon and West Islip.
West Nile, which was first detected in birds and mosquito samples in Suffolk in 1999, is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.
While most people infected with West Nile will experience mild or no symptoms, some individuals can develop high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Symptoms can last several weeks while the neurological effects may be permanent, officials said.
Individuals 50 or older, or with compromised immune systems, are the most at risk and are urged to take precautions, including removing standing water, ensuring windows have screens and reporting of any dead birds, which may indicate the presence of West Nile.
In the United States, a total of 54 West Nile cases, with four deaths, have been reported so far this year.