2004-08-20 / Community

Few Take Precautions Against West Nile Virus

Nearly nine out of ten adults have heard of West Nile virus, but fewer than half of them take precautions against mosquitoes such as using an insect repellent containing DEET, wearing protective clothing, and eliminating standing water from their home, a recent Department of Health and Mental Health (DOHMH) survey found.

Among people ages 65 and over - the group at highest risk of serious complications from WNV - only 6% reported consistently using an insect repellent. Additionally, of New Yorkers of all ages who consistently use an insect repellent, only half know whether it contains DEET, the most effective ingredient to repel mosquitoes.

Additionally, a new study conducted jointly by the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) and DOHMH and released by NYAM today indicates that most people who became infected with severe West Nile virus in New York City - especially the elderly - were still not fully recovered within one year of leaving the hospital. These findings serve as an important reminder for New Yorkers, particularly those over the age of 65, to take precautions against the disease.

DOHMH’s Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control Dr. Isaac Weisfuse said, “While there has been only one locally acquired case of WNV in so far this year, it came significantly earlier than in previous years. Even though we have the most experience with WNV in the country, it remains an unpredictable disease. If you don’t know whether you are at risk - or want to find out how to protect yourself and your family - call 311 or visit our website at nyc.gov/health/wnv.”

To educate New Yorkers about West Nile virus, DOHMH is giving hundreds of presentations this summer at senior centers, libraries, post offices, community groups and civic associations to educate New Yorkers about how to protect themselves. DOHMH will also be running radio spots on prevention tips and spray schedules, and will leaflet areas that are being sprayed. Additionally, DOHMH is distributing public education posters, a brochure and a door hanger with instructions to help New Yorkers reduce their exposure to mosquitoes. Factsheets are available online at nyc.gov/health, and New Yorkers can also call 311 for more information.

So far this year, the Health Department has found WNV-positive mosquitoes earlier and in greater quantities than in previous years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 495 human cases of West Nile virus in 24 states this year, with more than 250 cases in Arizona alone (for national updates, visit Uwww.cdc.gov/U ).

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