One of warm weather's most underrated blessings is the opportunity to console yourself when you find itchy bite marks on your body—they could be bedbug bites, but didn't you hear a mosquito buzzing in your ear this morning? Nope, you're fine, no reason to check the sheets! Then again, while mosquitos might alleviate some BB infestation fears, they do carry some nasty diseases, including the dreaded West Nile—and according to health officials, the season's first batch of diseased buggies are already here.
The Health Department put out an alert today warning that infected mosquitos have been found in Glen Oaks in Queens and New Dorp Beach in Staten Island, though no human cases have been reported yet. Officials are urging New Yorkers to take precautions to keep West Nile at bay.
“The most effective way to keep mosquito populations low is to remove standing water from items like buckets, gutters, planters, or any other receptacles that might be outdoors," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement today. "New Yorkers are also encouraged to wear mosquito repellent and cover their arms and legs if they’re outside at dawn or dusk in areas with mosquitoes. New Yorkers over 50 or who have severely weakened immune systems should be especially cautious, as they are more likely to develop serious illness if they contract the virus.”
Last year, there were 12 reported human cases of West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease—cases of West Nile that resulted in encephalitis, meningitis, or severe muscle weakness associated with the disease—three cases of mild to moderate West Nile fever, and 7 blood donors whose blood tested positive for the disease, though they never had any symptoms. Five of the neuroinvasive cases were reported in Brooklyn; 4 were in Queens; 2 were on Staten Island and 1 was in Manhattan.
Though not everyone infected with West Nile will get sick from the disease, it can be harmful for older individuals, occasionally causing potentially fatal brain and spinal cord infections. Milder symptoms include headaches, fevers, fatigue, weakness and occasionally rashes.