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West Nile Virus UPDATE

LongIsland.com

Steps you can take NOW to prevent exposing your children to pesticides ! In the fall of 1999, West Nile virus, was found in New York State. At that time, the infection caused 62 cases ...

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Steps you can take NOW to prevent exposing your children to pesticides !

In the fall of 1999, West Nile virus, was found in New York State. At that time, the infection caused 62 cases of encephalitis and claimed seven lives.

It appeared that our "health" authorities did a reasonably good job of protecting us in fighting off the encephalitis scare by spraying various pesticides throughout the community. During this "crisis", the public was given assurances about the safety of these pesticides and the potential deadliness of the encephalitis.

On the surface, there was little reason to question this blanket spraying in the name of public health. Now they are not so sure. Although it is unclear if there will be a recurrent outbreak this year, as citizens our knowledge of the situation and our participation in the effort to eliminate mosquito breeding sites are integral to the effort to combat West Nile virus. This will reduce the need for more aggressive mosquito control, such as aerial spraying of insecticides.

West Nile Virus: Frequently Asked Question's

What is West Nile virus?
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause encephalitis.

What is encephalitis?
Encephalitis is a viral infection. Mild cases may include a slight fever and/or headache. More severe infections are marked by a rapid onset of a high fever with head and body aches. Usually symptoms occur from 5 to 15 days after exposure. There is no specific treatment for viral infections, other than to treat the symptoms and provide supportive care. Those who may be most susceptible to encephalitis are infants, the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems.

Do all mosquitoes transmit disease?
No. Most mosquitoes do not transmit disease. While there are more than 100 different species of mosquitoes in New York State, the common house mosquito (Culex pipiens) is the one most commonly associated with West Nile virus.

Where do mosquitoes live and breed?
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water. The eggs become larvae that remain in the water until they mature and fly off. Weeds, tall grass and shrubbery provide an outdoor home for adult mosquitoes. They can also enter houses through unscreened windows or doors, or broken screens.

When are mosquitoes most active? Culex mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn, when the air is calm. However, they may be present at any time of day.

What animals can carry West Nile virus?
Although most West Nile virus-positive birds have been American crows, infections also have been confirmed in other species, including but not limited to the blue jay, bald eagle, mallard, American robin, and racing pigeon. It is important to remember that there is no evidence that birds can transmit West Nile virus to people, but gloves should be worn when handling any dead bird or mammal.Chickens have been found to become infected with West Nile virus, although they do not become ill from it. There have been no documented cases of indoor pet birds being infected.The West Nile virus was identified in horses on Long Island. There have been no documented cases of West Nile encephalitis in dogs (although asymptomatic infection in some dogs has been documented), and only one case documented in a New Jersey cat. It is important to remember that animals cannot transmit West Nile virus to people.

How can I protect my family and myself? To reduce the mosquito population around your home and property, reduce or eliminate all standing water:
- Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.
- Remove all discarded tires on your property. Used tires have become the most important source of mosquito breeding in the nation.
-Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.
-Make sure roof gutters drain property, and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
-Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
-Change the water in birdbaths.
-Clean vegetation and debris from edges of ponds.
-Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
-Drain water from pool covers.
-Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.
-Make sure all windows and doors have screens, and that all screens are in good repair.

Should we stay indoors?
It is not necessary to limit any outdoor activities, unless there is evidence of mosquito-borne disease. If West Nile virus is found in your area:
-Minimize time spent outdoors between dusk and dawn.
-Wear shoes, socks, tong pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for tong periods of time, or when mosquitoes are most active.
-Consider the use of mosquito repellent, according to directions, when it is necessary to be outdoors.

What is being done in my community to control mosquitoes? The New York State Health Department along with other state agencies, local health departments, colleges and environmental groups, has prepared a plan to address the potential return of West Nile virus in New York State, and has devised a preventative strategy to minimize the possibility of a reoccurrence. Local communities are implementing various control measures based on geographic location and level of risk. For more information regarding activities in your specific area, contact your local health department.

What else can we do? In addition to reducing potential breeding sites on your own property, you can encourage your neighbors, local businesses and municipal agencies to do so as well.

Resource box:
Fight The Bite
Box 2000
Albany, N.Y. 12220

NYS Dept. of Health West Nile Virus Hotline: www.health.state.ny.us

Your local county Deptartment of health