All summer long, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services has been collecting mosquito samples and testing them for West Nile virus. And all summer long, East Hampton Town did not see a single positive mosquito -- until last week.
One sample collected sometime between Aug. 25 and Aug. 27 tested positive, according to an announcement Friday from the Health Department. It is one of 76 samples that have tested positive for West Nile virus in the county over the last several months. The virus, which can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, was first detected in Suffolk in mosquitoes and birds in 1999.
“The confirmation of West Nile virus in mosquito samples indicates the presence of West Nile virus in the area,” said Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Health Department. “While there is no cause for undue concern, we advise residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to reduce exposure to West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.”
Among those precautions, Dr. Pigott said in the statement, are using screens on windows and doors; eliminating pools or puddles of standing water on the ground or in buckets, vases, pet water bowls, bird feeders, swimming pool covers, and other places where water collects; using mosquito repellent; wearing long pants, long-sleeve shirts, and tall socks when outdoors (which can also protect against ticks, officials have said), and minimizing time spent outdoors between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. People age 50 and over and those with compromised immune systems have been urged to take particular care.
West Nile virus symptoms can range from very mild to severe, and can include high fever, headaches, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis. Patients can also be asymptomatic. The effects “may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent,” the Health Department said.