Low West Nile Virus numbers in Westchester

By PHIL NOBILE
As summer winds down and outdoor activities start to decrease, mosquito presence—and the yearly threat of West Nile Virus—also diminishes. Although a 73-years-old Yonkers resident and a 56-years-old Ardsley resident were reportedly infected  with West Nile on Sept. 10 and Sept. 18 respectively, they remain the only cases in Westchester this year, marking lower figures and findings in the county compared to last year.

The two infected Westchester residents, neither publicly identified, are said to be recuperating. After they were found to have the virus, the Westchester Department of Health performed an environmental assessment of the area around the victims’ homes in Yonkers and Ardsley. No active mosquito breeding sites were found.

Although the numbers have improved since 2012, Peter DeLucia, assistant commissioner of health at the Bureau of Public Health Protection at the Westchester Department of Health, said the season for West Nile Virus has not concluded just yet, despite the official
end of summer.

“Mosquitoes are still out and about,” DeLucia said, adding that the Department of Health declares mosquito season over after two consecutive hard frosts.

The number of official cases and findings fall short of last year’s, in which 29 positive mosquito batches were found in Westchester County. This year, just seven positive batches were identified, to date. There was a total of 61 reported cases of human West Nile Virus infections in New York State in 2012 versus 10 reported this year.

No human deaths from the virus in Westchester were reported either this year or last.

As of Sept. 24, there were 1,135 human cases reported nationally and 44 deaths, a major decrease from last year, when 5,674 cases of West Nile led to 286 deaths.

The 2013 and 2012 numbers both eclipse 2011’s West Nile numbers, which saw only 712 cases nationwide and 43 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The Westchester Department of Health indicated the first West Nile positive batch of mosquitoes for 2013 was located in the Village of Rye Brook.

West Nile Virus is most commonly spread by mosquitoes, and, in rare cases, can affect the central nervous system. According to the CDC, there are no current medications or vaccines to prevent West Nile Virus infection, but only one in five people infected will develop a fever and actual symptoms, and less than 1 percent develop a serious or fatal illness. However, young children and the elderly are more susceptible to the virus due to  weaker immune systems.

Prevention methods include insect repellent, long sleeves and avoiding outdoor activities from dusk until dawn, according to the CDC.

DeLucia also advised Westche­s­ter residents to be proactive against the most popular method of reproduction for Mosquitoes, standing water.

“People should still be aware and active, mainly of standing water on their property,” DeLucia said. “[Mosquitoes] can breed on small surfaces, even the top of a sports drink, and their life cycle is very quick.”

Areas of standing water that mosquitoes most commonly target tend to collect on top of garbage cans and similar surfaces outside.

Contact: phil@hometwn.com