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Officials: Two more people infected with West Nile virus in Suffolk County

The Asian tiger mosquito can transmit West Nile

The Asian tiger mosquito can transmit West Nile virus. Credit: Science Source Images

Two more people in Suffolk were hospitalized this year after being infected by the West Nile virus, the Suffolk County health department said Tuesday.

A Huntington Town resident, who is at least 55 years old, is recovering at home after being hospitalized in late August, officials said, while a Smithtown Town resident, also at least 55 years old, has recovered after going to the hospital last month.

So far this year, Suffolk has had three confirmed human cases. A Babylon Town resident whose infection was confirmed last month remains hospitalized, county health officials said.

Nassau has had two cases this year, both Hempstead Town men who are at least 60 years old and were hospitalized after being diagnosed in mid August, said Mary Ellen Laurain, the county health spokeswoman. They are recovering, she said.

People get the virus through the bites of infected mosquitoes, which pick up West Nile by feeding on infected birds. Most people don’t even know they carry the virus, experts have said, because they don’t get sick or show few symptoms.

That means the number of confirmed cases in each county does not reflect how many people get infected with the virus, authorities said.

“We know only about the cases in which the patient sought treatment and we received laboratory confirmation of West Nile virus,” said Dr. James Tomarken, the Suffolk health commissioner. “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.”

Symptoms of the disease generally show up within two weeks of being bitten by an infected mosquito, Suffolk health officials said. About 20 percent of those who become infected will develop clinically noticeable symptoms, officials said.

Some victims have mild symptoms, including fever, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Severe symptoms include high fever, tremors, neck stiffness, vision loss, convulsions, paralysis and disorientation, experts said. The disease can be fatal.

People most at risk of severe infections include those who are at least 55 years old, have chronic illnesses or have compromised immune systems.

Experts advise those with higher risk to take precautions during mosquito season, which runs from June 1 to November 1, Suffolk health officials said. Precautions include using insect repellents containing DEET; spraying clothing with repellent containing permethrin; avoiding going outside from dusk to dawn when most mosquitoes are active; wearing long sleeves and long pants when nighttime activity is unavoidable; and eliminating standing water from flowerpots, clogged gutters, recycling bins, birdbaths, toys, swimming pool and hot tub covers. Experts advise consulting with healthcare providers before using insect repellent on young children, Suffolk health officials said.

Anyone with medical questions about the West Nile virus may call the Suffolk health department at 631-854-0333 . To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the county’s vector control division at the public works department at 631-852-4270 .