The Suffolk County health commissioner has announced the first mosquito samples to test positive for West Nile virus this year.
Dr. Gregson Pigott said on Friday that 12 mosquito samples collected on July 20 and 21 had tested positive, two from West Babylon and one each from Setauket, Port Jefferson Station, Dix Hills, Cold Spring Harbor, Melville, Copiague, Bay Shore, Aquebogue, Greenlawn, and Commack.
West Nile virus was first detected in birds and mosquito samples in Suffolk in 1999 and has been detected in each subsequent year. It is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Many infected people will experience mild or no symptoms, but some can develop severe symptoms, including high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis.
Symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. Individuals, especially those age 50 or older or those with compromised immune systems, are most at risk and are urged to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
Dr. Pigott advised residents to minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn; wear shoes and socks, long pants, and long-sleeve shirts when mosquitoes are active; use mosquito repellent; make sure all windows and doors have screens and that all screens are in good repair, and prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs inside and outside residences by emptying, scrubbing, turning over, covering, or throwing out containers that hold water such as vases, pet water bowls, flowerpot saucers, discarded tires, buckets, pool covers, birdbaths, trash cans, and rain barrels.
Dead birds may indicate the presence of West Nile virus, and they can be reported to the county's Bureau of Public Health Protection at 631-852-5999 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question. Mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water can be reported to the Department of Public Works' vector control division at 631-852-4270.
The county's informational brochure "Get the Buzz on Mosquito Protection" can be downloaded in English at bit.ly/3JjRjvC and in Spanish at bit.ly/3zI6z1h.