The city’s Health Department confirmed 2018’s first human case of West Nile virus over the weekend, and it was the earliest identification of the mosquito-borne illness since 1999. Most cases are identified between late July and October, officials said.
A Manhattan man over the age of 50 was hospitalized with encephalitis early last month and has since been discharged, the Health Department said, and warned that adults 50 years or older and those with weakened immune systems should protect themselves from mosquito bites.
“The findings from our mosquito surveillance and the early West Nile virus case serve as vital reminders that mosquito season is here and that all New Yorkers should take precautions to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “We have one of the best mosquito control programs in the country, but West Nile virus is here to stay. To reduce the chance of infection, all New Yorkers — including residents living in Manhattan — should use mosquito repellent, cover arms and legs when outdoors, get rid of standing water and install window screens.”
In addition to the Manhattan man’s case, the Health Department also detected West Nile virus in mosquitoes around the city, the department said.
The city began its mosquito control program on June 4 with catch basin, ground and aerial larviciding. There are 61 surveillance traps across the five boroughs, and the department said it will spray in areas based on evidence of West Nile virus activity in mosquitoes increasing.
West Nile virus can result in severe illness, including encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, and meningitis, which can be accompanied by permanent or long-term complications like muscle weakness, fatigue, depression and confusion. Headache, fatigue, rash and fever are among milder symptoms individuals can experience.
The first case of West Nile virus was detected in New York City in 1999, and the number of annual cases ranges from three to 47, the Health Department said, with 259 confirmed cases overall. Of those, 38 patients, or 15 percent, have died due to their infection.
How to reduce exposure to mosquito bites and West Nile virus
The city’s Health Department encourages these ways to reduce your exposure to mosquito bites:
• Use an insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535 or 2-undecanone.
• Make sure to use window screens, and repair or replace screen with holes or tears.
• Remove any standing water and containers that may collect water. (FYI: Standing water violates city health code.)
• Check that roof gutters are clean and able to properly drain.
• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubes, and empty or cover if not in use. Drain water that collects in pool covers as well.