2010-09-10 / Community

DOH: Seniors Should Take Care With West Nile Virus

The Health Department recently reported the 13th human case of West Nile viral disease in New York City this summer. Because an unusually high number of mosquito pools are testing positive for West Nile Virus throughout the five boroughs, the agency is advising all New Yorkers - especially those 50 and older - to take precautions to avoid bites. West Nile Virus was first introduced in New York City in 1999, and human cases have occurred every year since then. This year, the Health Department has recorded more human cases at this point in the season than it has in any other year since 2000. More cases are expected through October.

New Yorkers can take simple steps to minimize contact with mosquitoes and prevent infection with West Nile Virus:

Use an approved insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (not for children under three), or products that contain the active ingredient IR3535.

Make sure windows have screens, and repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.

Eliminate any standing water from your property, and dispose of containers that can collect water. Standing water is a violation of the New York City Health Code.

Make sure roof gutters are clean and draining properly.

Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. Keep them empty and covered if not in use; drain water that collects in pool covers.

Report standing water by calling 311 or visiting http://www.nyc.gov/health/wnv.

To date, 211 New Yorkers have been diagnosed with West Nile viral disease since it was first found in the United States in 1999, including 3 in 2009 and 15 in 2008.

The Health Department uses an “integrated pest management” approach to monitor the city for West Nile Virus and control its spread by mosquitoes. The agency inspects and treats standing water sites with nonchemical larvicides to kill larval mosquitoes before they emerge as flying adults. When necessary, the agency also applies small amounts of chemical pesticides (adulticides) to kill adult mosquitoes. A schedule of mosquito control activities is available online at nyc.gov/health or by phone from the 311 call center.

West Nile Virus infection most often causes a mild or moderate flu-like illness, or sometimes no symptoms at all. But in some people, particularly those 50 and older, it can cause a serious and potentially fatal infection of the brain and spinal cord. The most common symptoms are headache, fever, muscle aches and extreme fatigue. Symptoms of more severe illness can also include changes in mental status and muscle weakness. If you think you have symptoms of West Nile Virus, see your doctor right away. For more information about West Nile Virus, and how to avoid it, visit nyc.gov/health or call 311.

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