By Kathryn G. Menu
The Suffolk County Department of Health Services confirmed this week that mosquito samples in Bridgehampton, among several other Long Island communities, have tested positive for the West Nile virus.
In 2010, the virus made history in Suffolk County since it was first detected over a decade ago, claiming the lives of three people. Three people in Nassau County also succumbed to the virus.
On Monday, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Commissioner Dr. James L. Tomarken announced that the New York State Department of Health confirmed 14 mosquito samples, found in Dix Hills, Lindenhurst, Bay Shore, Jamesport, East Northport, North Patchogue, Holbrook, Ronkonkoma, Rocky Point, Huntington, East Setauket and Bridgehampton tested positive for West Nile virus. The samples were culex pipiens-restuans collected between August 2 and August 5 by the county’s public health division.
A total of 24 mosquito samples collected in Suffolk County this season have tested positive for the virus.
The virus, first detected in Suffolk County in 1999 and found in the region each year since, is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. According to county officials, to date, 11 birds have tested positive for the virus in Suffolk County this year. No humans or horses have tested positive in the county so far this year.
“The confirmation of West Nile virus in a mosquito pool indicates that the virus is actively circulating within the mosquito population,” said Dr. Tomarken. “While there is no cause for alarm, we urge residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to contain the spread of the virus, which can be debilitating to humans.”
According to Dr. Tomarken, to reduce a mosquito population around a home, residents should try to eliminate any stagnant water, where mosquitoes breed. Holding containers, tin cans, plastic containers and ceramic pots holding stagnant water should be disposed of, as should all discarded tires on a property. It is also recommended that roof gutters and drains be cleaned regularly and plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows turned over when not in use. Water in birdbaths should be changed regularly, advises the county health department, pool covers drained regularly and pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs should be cleaned and chlorinated.
Dr. Tomarken said most people infected with the virus may experience mild or even no symptoms. Sometimes severe symptoms, including high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis can occur. Symptoms may last for several weeks and neurological effects may be permanent, according to Dr. Tomarken.
People over the age of 50, or those with weak immune systems are most at risk.
The county health department has suggested that to avoid mosquito bites, residents should minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, wear shoes and socks, as well as long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors for long periods of time or when mosquitoes appear more active, use mosquito repellent as well as screens on all windows and doors in a household.
Dead birds found on a property may indicate the presence of West Nile virus and the county has asked residents report any dead birds to the West Nile virus hotline at 631-787-2200. To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the county’s department of public works’ vector control division at 631-852-4270. For medical questions related to the virus, call 631-853-3055.
More information on the virus is also available at www.suffolkcountyny.gov/health.