There is nothing more annoying than the annual itching and stinging that come along with mosquito season, but Westchester County health officials are warning that this year, the bites could be potentially dangerous, too.
According to a press release from the Westchester County Department of Health, both Rockland County and New York City have confirmed the presence of West Nile Virus in mosquitoes collected this year. While no mosquitoes in Westchester County have yet tested positive for the virus this season, the Health Department is still encouraging county residents to take protective measures to avoid bites.
“Given the fact that our neighbors have reported positive mosquitoes, it is safe to assume that mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus are also present here in Westchester County,” said Westchester County Commissioner of Health Sherlita Amler, MD. “The recent rain we’ve had also provides optimal breeding conditions for mosquitoes that can carry the virus. I urge all residents to remove standing water from their property and to take personal protective measures against mosquito bites when spending time outdoors.”
Last year, 752 mosquito pools tested positive for the virus statewide, seven of which were found in Westchester County. Two of the 21 human cases reported in New York in 2014 occurred in Westchester.
West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause serious illness and occasionally death. Many people who contract the virus do not experience any symptoms of illness, while approximately 20 percent of infected people develop mild symptoms including fever, headache and body aches, skin rash, or swollen lymph glands. The New York State Department of Health estimates one in 150 persons infected with West Nile Virus will experience a more severe case of the disease that could develop into West Nile encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis.
There is no available human vaccine for West Nile Virus, so the best way to protect yourself is to be proactive and stop mosquitoes before you’re bitten. Westchester County officials have been distributing free minnows to property owners with ponds—these fish feed on mosquito larvae and help control the population before the larvae mature. The county government has also treated nearly 40,000 “catch basins” with larvicide, and will continue to do so throughout the season.
To reduce your risk of mosquito bites, the Westchester County Health Department suggests using insect repellents with no more than 30 percent DEET; wearing protective clothing such as long pants, shirts, and socks; and securing screens on doors and windows in your home.
To help eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes, the Health Department recommends removing or turning over surfaces that may accumulate standing water around your home, including outdoor trash containers, birdbaths, and flower pots.
Residents who notice large areas of standing water on public property are urged to report this to the Westchester County Department of Health by calling (914) 813-5000 or online at westchestergov.com/health