Despite this suspiciously mild summer, our fair city wasn't lucky enough to be spared the scourge of West Nile. So far this year, five New Yorkers—hailing from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan—have been afflicted with the mosquito-borne virus, and health officials are putting everyone on alert, so now's a good time to douse your apartment in Off! before buying up all the bespoke mosquito netting available on Etsy.
Yesterday, the Health Department confirmed the five cases, the first reported in the city this year. All of the infected individuals were over the age of 50, and three were hospitalized, though none of the cases have been fatal. As a precaution, tomorrow between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., the city will spray for mosquitos in a whole host of neighborhoods in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island: sprays will take place in parts of Morris Park, Middletown, Pelham Bay, Pelham Gardens, Pelham Parkway Van Nest, Spencer Estate, Westchester Square, Van Nest, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Fort Hamilton, Dycker Heights, South Jamaica and Springfield Gardens.
West Nile, which usually manifests with mild or moderate flu-like symptoms, can be harmful for older individuals, occasionally causing potentially fatal brain and spinal cord infections. "The most effective way to reduce mosquitoes in an area is to eliminate standing water, which is where they breed and lay their eggs, and to wear mosquito repellent when you are outdoors," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassatt said yesterday. "New Yorkers age 60 and older should be especially careful as they are more likely to develop serious illness if infected.”
There are usually a handful of cases in the city each year—last year, health officials recorded one case in the Bronx, 3 in Brooklyn, 2 in Queens and 4 on Staten Island. In 2012, the city recorded a total of 41 cases, including 6 fatalities.