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County tests reveal presence of West Nile virus on Island

COURTESY PHOTO Known as a vector for the West Nile virus, this Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito has landed on a human finger.

COURTESY PHOTO Known as a vector for the West Nile virus, this Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito has landed on a human finger.

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken has announced that mosquito samples taken last month on Shelter Island tested positive for West Nile Virus.

The samples were collected on September 22 on the Island. Other samples collected a day earlier, indicated the presence of  West Nile in Dix Hills and Stony Brook.

This year, the county reported four cases of West Nile virus, including one death, the first since 2010.

“While there is no cause for alarm, we advise residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to reduce the exposure to the virus, which can be debilitating to humans,” Commissioner Tomarken said.

The virus is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes.

Some infected people will experience mild or no symptoms, according to the health department, while others can develop “high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.”

Symptoms of some infected people can last a number of weeks, according to the health department, and “neurological effects may be permanent.”

People who are most at risk for the debilitating effects of the virus, such as those over 50 and those with compromised immune systems, are urged to take extra precaution against mosquito bites.

To avoid mosquito bites, the county advises all residents to:
• Minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn
• Wear shoes and socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when mosquitoes are active
• Use mosquito repellent, following label directions carefully
• Make sure all windows and doors have screens, and that all screens are in good repair.
• Keep mosquitoes from laying eggs inside and outside of your home
• Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out containers that hold water, such as vases, pet water bowls, flowerpot saucers, discarded tires, buckets, pool covers, birdbaths, trash cans and rain barrels

Dead birds may be a sign of the presence of West Nile in the area. The county health department advises residents to call the Public Health Information line at (631) 787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and to take a photograph of the dead bird.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at (631) 852-4270.

For further information on West Nile virus, visit the Department of Health Services’ website at suffolkcountyny.gov/departments/healthservices.aspx