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Two people develop West Nile virus in Suffolk, officials say

Department of Health Services Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken

Department of Health Services Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken said, "there is no discernible trend" of West Nilve virus. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Suffolk County health officials announced two cases of West Nile virus in people Tuesday, the first reported cases in Suffolk this season.

Both individuals are over the age of 50 and live in the Town of Islip.

Nassau County has seen no reported cases in humans this year, officials said.

In Suffolk, the first person with the virus developed symptoms in mid-August and was hospitalized for several days before being discharged, health officials said.

The second person became ill in late August. The person was hospitalized with West Nile encephalitis, which is caused by the West Nile virus, and has recently been discharged to recover at home.

“There is no discernible trend,” said Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Services Dr. James Tomarken. “We know only about the cases in which the patient sought treatment and we received laboratory confirmation of West Nile virus.”

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is estimated that 20 percent of those who become infected will develop clinically noticeable symptoms of West Nile virus disease, officials said.

About 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

Severe illness from the virus can occur in people of any age; however, people over 60 years of age are at greater risk, along with people with certain underlying medical conditions.

Earlier this month, Suffolk reported 68 mosquito samples testing positive for West Nile, officials said. Four birds also had tested positive for the virus.

Health officials advised people to avoid going outside from dusk to dawn when most mosquitoes are active, wear long sleeves and long pants when nighttime activity is unavoidable, eliminate standing water from flowerpots, clogged gutters, recycle bins and birdbaths.

Suffolk County reported 11 cases in 2018, seven in 2017, five cases in both 2016 and 2015, one in 2014, five in 2013, 14 in 2012, four in 2011, and 25 in 2010.  

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.