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Letter to the Editor: West Nile Virus

Dear Editor,

Suffolk County Health Officials recently announced that additional mosquito samples from various locations from Huntington to Amagansett have tested positive for the West Nile virus.  To date this year, 30 mosquito samples — all Culex pipiens-restuans — and six birds have tested positive for the virus. There have been no human cases reported in the County this year.

The West Nile virus was first detected in birds and mosquito samples in Suffolk County in 1999 and again each year thereafter through 2011.  It is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.

I am urging all residents to protect themselves and their loved ones against contracting the virus. Preventative steps include: wearing long-sleeved pants and shirts; placing mosquito netting over infant carriers; staying indoors when mosquitoes are actively biting; dumping standing water and eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes; installing or repairing screens so the pests cannot come indoors; and using repellant if necessary.

Most people will not experience any symptoms but in mild cases symptoms may include a slight fever and head and body aches.  Severe infections may include muscle weakness and may progress to encephalitis and meningitis.  Persons over the age of 50 or those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from West Nile.  If you think that you or a family member may have the virus, consult your health care provider immediately. If you have general medical questions related to the West Nile virus, you can call (631) 853-3055.

The County Health Department would also like your assistance in combating the spread of this virus.  You can reduce the mosquito population around your home by simply eliminating stagnant water and potential breeding places. Mosquito larvae can reproduce in the smallest places where water collects. Just remember to dump standing water especially after summer storms. You can report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water by calling the Suffolk County Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at (631) 852-4270.  Finally, dead birds may indicate the presence of West Nile virus in the area.  Please report any dead birds by calling the West Nile virus hotline in Suffolk County at (631)787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

I urge everyone to take simple precautions to ensure that you and your family have a healthy and relaxing summer!  The County offers an informative bulletin entitled “Mosquitoes and Mosquito-borne Illnesses,” which contains tips on personal protection and repellents. To download the brochure, visit Health%20Services/Seasonal/Mosquito%20Brochure.pdf.


William R. Spencer

Suffolk County Legislator

18th Legislative District




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