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Nassau: First reported West Nile virus death on Long Island in 2 years

A Town of Hempstead resident — one of six people on Long Island to have contracted West Nile virus this year — has died, a spokeswoman for the Nassau County health department said Tuesday.

It is the first death of a person with West Nile to be reported in the past two years on Long Island.

Officials did not say how the six people — three each in Nassau and Suffolk — contracted West Nile but health officials have said that usually human infection comes from mosquito bites after the insects pick up the virus by feeding on infected birds.

In 2015, Suffolk reported five human West Nile cases and Nassau nine.

The person who died this year was under 50 years old and had “underlying medical conditions,” said Nassau health department spokeswoman Mary Ellen Laurain. The two other Nassau residents infected in 2016 are over 50 years old and also from the Town of Hempstead, officials said Monday. One person remains hospitalized, Laurain said, with the other discharged and recovering.

Monday, both counties reported three cases of human West Nile infection so far this year.

The three infected in Suffolk are from the towns of Islip, Brookhaven and Smithtown, according to the county health department. All three — one under 50 and the other two over 50 — were hospitalized and released, Suffolk officials said.

The latest cases don’t signal a pattern but there could be others, said Dr. James Tomarken, Suffolk’s health commissioner.

“There is no discernible trend,” Tomarken said. “We know only about the cases in which the patient sought treatment and we received laboratory confirmation of West Nile virus. There may be many more residents who acquired West Nile virus, but we never learned about them because they didn’t seek medical attention or they sought attention but lab tests weren’t ordered.”

In addition to the human cases in Suffolk, two new mosquito samples testing positive for West Nile virus were reported in the county Tuesday, bringing the total for the year to 140, health officials reported Tuesday.

The new samples, one Culex pipiens-restuans and the other Culex salinarius, were collected Sept. 21 in Aquebogue.

Nassau has reported 20 West Nile positive mosquito samples in 2016, officials said.

Also, Asian Tiger mosquitoes, officially known as Aedes albopictus, are presently active in Suffolk, health officials said. Known “to bite aggressively near your feet and ankles during the day,” they are also relatives of the mosquito — Aedes aegypti — that is transmitting the Zika virus.

Zika virus has not been found in any mosquitoes on Long Island, officials said.

The Asian Tiger mosquito “has been known to carry the virus, but not as competently as the Aedes aegypti and not at all in New York,” said Grace Kelly-McGovern, Suffolk’s health department spokeswoman.

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