Two more Suffolk residents have contracted the potentially fatal West Nile virus, bringing the total to seven for the season, according to county Health Department officials.
A 55-year-old Southold resident was hospitalized in September with symptoms consistent with West Nile and is recovering at home, officials said. A 55-year-old Town of Huntington resident was also hospitalized in September with West Nile symptoms and has since recovered.
The five other reported cases this year have afflicted residents from the towns of Islip, Huntington, Smithtown, Brookhaven and Babylon.
“There is no discernible trend,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Suffolk's commissioner of Health Services. “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.”
West Nile is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. An estimated 20 percent of people who become infected will develop symptoms of the disease.
The virus' mild symptoms can be fever, headache and body aches, a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Symptoms in more severe cases can include high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.
Individuals most at risk for severe infection include those over the age of 55 and those with chronic illness or compromised immune systems. Residents are encouraged to remove standing water where mosquitoes could breed and to seek medical treatment if they experience symptoms, Tomarken said.
Suffolk County reported seven human cases in 2017. In 2010, when there were 25 cases, and three people died.
Mosquito season began June 1 and ends Nov. 1.
For medical questions related to West Nile virus, call the Suffolk Department of Health Services’ Division of Public Health at 631-854-0333.
To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.