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Mosquito samples test positive for West Nile virus, health officials say

A culex pipiens, or common house mosquito, one

A culex pipiens, or common house mosquito, one of those that transmits West Nile virus and lives on Long Island. Credit: USGS

Five mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile virus — the first to test positive in Suffolk this year, county health officials said Thursday. 

The samples were collected in Cold Spring Harbor, Northport, Brentwood and Melville, said health officials, who urged people to take precautions.

Two dead birds collected in Northport and Nesconset also tested positive for the virus, health officials said. 

Dr. James Tomarken, Suffolk County health commissioner, said the testing "indicates the presence of West Nile virus in the area."  

"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," Tomarken said in a news release. 

West Nile virus was first detected in Suffolk County in 1999 and has been found every year since. No humans or horses have tested positive for the virus this year, health officials said. 

Birds harbor the virus, but mosquitoes acquire it after feeding on a wide range of bird species.

The virus is transmitted to humans through carrier mosquitoes. Once humans contract the virus, they could exhibit a range of symptoms, including fever, headache and body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. More severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, vision loss and coma.

To minimize mosquito exposure, health officials recommend wearing shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when mosquitoes are active — typically between dusk and dawn. Health officials also recommend emptying any yard containers that hold water, such as vases and birdbaths. 

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