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5 new mosquito samples test positive for West Nile in Suffolk

Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus were found last week in five communities, the Suffolk County Health Department said in advising the public to take precautions.

The mosquito samples were collected July 10-13 from Dix Hills, West Babylon, North Babylon, Huntington and Southaven County Park in Yaphank, officials said. The Yaphank sample was from the Culiseta melanura mosquito, a species that feeds primarily on birds, according to the health department.

Early this month, the virus was found in Suffolk County for the first time this year in four mosquito samples, health officials said. They were collected July 2 and 3 from East Northport, Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown, Belmont Lake State Park in North Babylon and Heckscher State Park in East Islip, officials said.

No person or horse, which are also susceptible to the virus, has been infected this year, health officials said.

“While there is no cause for alarm, we advise residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to reduce the exposure to the virus, which can be debilitating to humans,” Suffolk Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken said in a news release Friday.

Many people already have the virus in their bodies but don't know it because the symptoms are mild or nonexistent, experts said.

Tomarken said some people can develop severe symptoms, including high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. The symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

People, especially those who are at least 50 years old, and those with compromised immune systems, who are most at risk, should take precautions against mosquitoes, experts said.

To avoid mosquito bites, people should minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn; wear shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when mosquitoes are active; use mosquito repellent; and make sure windows and doors have screens. 

To deter mosquitoes from laying eggs in and outside homes, make weekly checks to empty, turn over, cover or throw out containers that can hold water, such as vases, pet water bowls, flowerpot saucers, discarded tires, pool covers, birdbaths and trash cans, the health department suggested.  

The virus was first detected in birds and mosquito samples in Suffolk County in 1999 and every year since, the county said.

Dead birds may indicate the presence of the virus, and health officials ask the public to report dead birds on the public health information line 631-852-5999 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Health officials also encourage people to photograph the bird in question.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ vector control division at 631-852-4270.

More information and the county's downloadable brochure in English or Spanish, “Get the Buzz on Mosquito Protection,” is available at the health department website at http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/HealthServices/PublicHealth/PreventiveServices/ArthropodborneDiseaseProgram/Mosquitoes.aspx

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