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 WPCNR HEALTH BRIEF. From the Westchester County Department of Health. AUGUST 19, 2016:

This season’s first batch of mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus has been confirmed by the Westchester County Department of Health. The area surrounding the positive mosquito batch in Yonkers has been inspected by the health department and nearby catch basins with standing water have been treated to protect against further mosquito breeding in the area.

“The presence of West Nile Virus has been a reality in the Hudson Valley for quite some time now, so this positive test is not a surprise,” said Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino. “Nevertheless, it’s a reminder for residents to protect themselves and their families against West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses. For the county’s part, we have implemented a proactive and comprehensive plan to combat mosquito-borne illness for more than a decade, including advice and resources for our residents.”

In 2016, the Westchester County Department of Health has submitted 243 pools of mosquitoes to the New York State Department of Health for testing with only one positive result.

The state health department has identified 195 positive mosquito pools throughout New York so far this year. Symptoms of West Nile encephalitis (a severe infection) usually occur from three to 14 days following the bite and include high fever, headache, confusion, muscle aches and weakness, seizures, or paralysis. Most people who are infected with West Nile Virus will not show any symptoms. Persons over 50 years of age are at the highest risk for a severe disease.

West Nile Virus is not to be confused with Zika. To date, no mosquitoes in New York State have tested positive for Zika and there have been no locally-acquired cases.

“We hope confirmation of mosquitoes with West Nile Virus reminds residents to take precautions,” said Westchester County Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD. “The best ways to avoid West Nile, and other mosquito-borne illnesses, are to remove standing water from your property.”

According to Dr. Amler, favorite mosquito breeding sites include buckets, plant pot saucers, clogged gutters, pet bowls, old tires, as well as children’s pools and toys. Residents should also minimize spending time outdoors at dawn and dusk, and apply insect repellents according to the label directions when enjoying activities outside.

As in prior years, the county health department prepared for the 2016 mosquito season by evaluating and treating with larvicide, as needed, all catch basins on county and municipal roads throughout Westchester. In addition to larviciding, the county also gave away free fathead minnows and mosquito dunks to residents this spring. The minnows help to curtail the mosquito population in ponds and water features by feeding on mosquito larvae and pupae before they develop into adult mosquitoes. The mosquito dunks serve the same purpose in birdbaths, rain barrels and unused pools. Free mosquito dunks are still available, and residents can make arrangements to pick them up by calling (914) 813-5000.

In 2015, 17 positive mosquito batches were found in Westchester County with the first positive batch collected around this time. The county has been safely applying larvicide since 2001 to suppress the mosquito population.

Residents who notice large areas of standing water on public property that could serve as potential mosquito breeding grounds should report it to the Westchester County Department of Health by calling (914) 813-5000 or emailing hweb@westchestergov.com. For more information about preventing West Nile Virus, visit health.westchestergov.com/west-nile-virus.

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