Suffolk Health Commissioner Reports First Human Case of West Nile Virus this Year

Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Services James Tomarken reported today the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus in Suffolk County this year.

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Suffolk County, NY - September 10, 2015 - Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Services James Tomarken reported today the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus in Suffolk County this year.  The individual, a male over 55 years of age who resides in the Town of Islip, was admitted to a local hospital in late August upon experiencing symptoms consistent with West Nile virus.  The patient remains in the hospital at this time.  

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is estimated that 20 percent of those who become infected will develop clinically noticeable symptoms of West Nile virus disease. Mild symptoms may include fever, headache and body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. More severe symptoms include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Residents who experience symptoms are advised to visit their health-care providers.

West Nile virus can be fatal. Individuals who are most at risk for severe infection include those over 50 years of age and those with chronic illness or compromised immune systems. These individuals are urged to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes during the season. Among the recommendations: use insect repellent containing DEET*, spray clothing with repellent containing permethrin, avoid going outside from dusk to dawn when most mosquitoes are active, wear long sleeves and long pants when nighttime activity is unavoidable, eliminate standing water from flower pots, clogged gutters, recycle bins, birdbaths, toys, swimming pool and hot tub covers.  Mosquito season extends from June 1 through November 1.

The number of human cases of West Nile virus varies each year. Suffolk County reported one human case of West Nile virus in 2014, four cases in 2011 and five in 2013, as compared to 14 human cases in 2012 and 25 cases in 2010, a year in which the virus claimed three lives.  

“There is no discernible trend,” said Dr. Tomarken. “We know only about the cases in which the patient sought treatment and we received laboratory confirmation of West Nile virus. There may be many more residents who acquired West Nile virus, but we never learned about them because their symptoms were mild and they didn’t seek medical attention or they sought medical attention but lab tests were not ordered.”

Individuals who have medical questions related to West Nile virus may call the Department of Health Services: 631-854-0333.

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

To learn more about Suffolk County’s Mosquito-borne-Illness surveillance program, view the following videos:

Video 1

Video 2

*Follow label instructions. Consult healthcare provider before using insect repellent on young children.