COUNTY PRESS RELEASE
Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert confirmed Tuesday the season’s first human case of West Nile virus in a county resident. The patient is over the age of 50 years and tested positive for the illness based on clinical symptoms and preliminary laboratory findings. The individual was hospitalized September 6 with fever and weakness in his lower extremities and remains hospitalized. This is the first known human case of neuro-invasive West Nile virus (i.e. the virus gets into the brain, encephalitis, or into the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord, meningitis) to occur in Rockland County.
While Health Department staff continue to look for and treat known mosquito breeding sites, the public can also assist the County’s efforts to eliminate mosquitoes. “This human case of West Nile virus reinforces the urgency of the need for people to protect themselves against mosquito bites and to continue to get rid of standing water around their properties where mosquitoes breed,” said Dr. Ruppert.
A bite from an infected mosquito can spread West Nile virus, an infection that can cause serious illness, and in some cases, death. Although a person’s chances of getting sick are small, those 50 and older are at highest risk for serious illness. You can reduce the risk of being bitten in the following ways:
- Minimize outdoor activities when mosquitoes are active.
- Wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time, or when mosquitoes are most active.
- If you plan to be outdoors when or where mosquitoes are active, consider using an insect repellent. Follow directions on the label.
Most people who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms. It is estimated that 20 percent of the people who become infected will develop West Nile fever and have mild symptoms, including fever, headache and body aches, and occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. The symptoms of severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis) can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma. It is estimated that one in 150 persons infected with the WNV will develop the more severe form of the disease. Usually, symptoms occur from 3 to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. There is no specific treatment for viral infections, other than to treat the symptoms and provide supportive care. If you think you have symptoms of West Nile virus, see your doctor right away.
Even the smallest amount of standing water can serve as a breeding site for mosquitoes. They lay eggs in these sites that hatch within a few days. Follow these tips to help reduce exposure to mosquitoes:
- Check your property for ANY items that can hold water. Even small items, such as drinking cups or soda cans, can produce mosquitoes. Get rid of the items or empty the water out at least once a week.
- If you have a swimming pool that is not in use, drain the water off the cover or treat this standing water with Mosquito Dunks®. They contain bacteria that kill mosquitoes in their larval stage in water, before they become flying, biting adults. The dunks are available free of charge at the Health Department, Building D, 50 Sanatorium Road in Pomona, Monday – Friday, from 9 am to 4 pm, while supplies last. It is important to know the size of your pool when coming to pick up your dunks.
- Drill drain holes in the bottoms of recycling containers, turn over wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use and remove all discarded tires.
- Make sure that roof gutters drain properly.
- Clear vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds and remove leaf debris from yards and gardens.
- Make sure that all windows and doors have screens and that all screens are in good repair.
As of September 17, there have been 16 reported human cases of West Nile virus in New York State (five in Brooklyn, five in Queens, two in Staten Island, three in Nassau County and one in Suffolk County).
For more information visit rocklandgov.com/health or call the Health Department at 845-364-3173. To learn more about West Nile virus, visit the New York State Department of Health website at health.ny.gov.
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