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Two mosquito samples in Suffolk test positive for West Nile virus

A culex pipiens, one of the mosquitos that

A culex pipiens, one of the mosquitos that transmits West Nile virus and lives on Long Island. Credit: USGS

Two mosquito samples in Suffolk County tested positive for West Nile virus, the first on Long Island this year, health officials reported Thursday.

Samples collected July 6 in Nesconset and July 8 in Northport tested positive for the virus, which can cause neurological problems and muscle weakness, Suffolk Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott said in a news release.

No mosquito samples in Nassau have tested positive for the virus so far this year, Nassau Health Department spokeswoman Mary Ellen Laurain said in an email.

Last year, there were four human West Nile cases in Nassau County as of October but none in Suffolk. In New York City, there were six human cases in 2020 and one death as of October.

The virus is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.

West Nile has been detected on Long Island every year since 1999, and Pigott said "there is no cause for alarm."

Most people who contract the virus have mild or no symptoms, but some — especially those 50 and older or with compromised immune systems — can get severely ill, the health department said in the release.

Potential symptoms include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis, the department said. Neurological effects in some people are permanent.

Pigott urged residents to minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and shoes and socks when mosquitoes are active, use mosquito repellent, and make sure all windows and doors have intact screens.

Any containers that hold water, such as buckets, pet water bowls, birdbaths and trash cans should be emptied once a week and scrubbed to prevent the growth of mosquitoes, he said.

County officials said residents can report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water by calling 631-852-4270.

If you see a dead bird — which could indicate the presence of the West Nile virus — take a photograph of the bird and call 631-852-5999 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.