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West Nile mosquitoes 'historically high' in Suffolk

An undated file photo of a mosquito.

An undated file photo of a mosquito. Credit: Getty Images

The West Nile virus has been found in 46 more mosquito samples in Suffolk, totaling 125 positive findings for this season, a "historically high" count for this time of year, the county health department said Thursday.

"Though the number of mosquitoes testing positive is historically high for this time of year, we cannot predict if the numbers will continue to be high," said Dr. James L. Tomarken, the county's health commissioner. "There are many factors, such as weather, that affect mosquito population and activity."

The latest samples were taken July 24 to 28, the county said.

Usually, infected samples crop up around Labor Day.But the past winter was warmer than usual, causing early blooms and accelerating the breeding season of many creatures, officials said.

To date this year in Suffolk, 125 mosquito samples and 13 birds have tested positive for the virus. State officials are investigating the case of one person who got sick and recovered as a possible West Nile virus infection.

Federal park officials also said the virus was found in a small sample collected July 17 from the lower part of the William Floyd Estate in Mastic Beach, part of the Fire Island National Seashore.

The National Park Service has started stepping up mosquito monitoring after the positive results from a sample of 17 mosquitoes in one trap from the lower part of the estate, said Paula S. Valentine, spokeswoman for the Fire Island National Seashore.

But park officials have decided it's not yet necessary to spray or place pesticide baits, the spokeswoman said. For one thing, the sample is so small compared to the hundreds of mosquitoes that are usually collected from a trap, she said. At the same time, no other infected mosquitoes or dead birds have been found on Fire Island, she said. Also, the location where the mosquitoes were collected is near salt marshes, a sensitive natural resource, she said.

"The species that tested positive, Culex pipiens-restuans, does not generate a major human health concern because it does not readily bite humans," said park biologist Jordan Raphael.

The park has 18 mosquito traps, but more will be put out and biological technicians will go out at least weekly to check on them, Valentine said.

Both park and county officials advise people to take precautions, such as wearing long sleeves, avoiding going to mosquito-filled areas at night, when mosquitoes tend to be active, and applying insect repellent.

Valentine said it's safe for visitors to come out to the park and estate.

Most people should not worry about being bitten and getting sick, she said, and at this time of year visitors don't venture to the salt marshes, where the infected batch was collected.

"It's generally the fresh water mosquitoes that are infected," Paulson said. "Most of the ones you're going to run into are salt water mosquitoes.

"Not everybody is affected adversely by West Nile virus. Some people may not even know they have it."

Suffolk officials said the latest batch of samples were collected from Holtsville, Huntington Station, North Babylon, Yaphank, Rocky Point, East Northport, Northport), Farmingville, Copiague, Port Jefferson Station, West Islip, South Huntington, Lindenhurst, West Babylon, East Setauket, Ridge, Brentwood, Dix Hills, Nesconset, Mattituck and Greenlawn.

Tomarken asks residents to reduce the mosquito population around homes by getting rid of stagnant water, where mosquitoes breed.

A mosquito protection brochure is at suffolkcountyny.gov/Portals/0/Documents%20and%20Forms/Health%20Services/Seasonal/Mosquito%20Brochure.pdf

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

For medical questions about the West Nile virus, call 631-853-3055.

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