The West Nile virus is having a great summer in New York City. Health officials reported this week that at least two people have recently contracted the viral illness, while an estimated record number of mosquitoes currently carry it. Officials are warning people to use repellent and wear protective gear during peak mosquito activity, and they are actively spraying high-risk areas.
Mosquitoes are the deadliest animal in the world to humans, thanks to the many diseases they can spread on us. But compared to other warmer countries, the US is less affected by mosquito-borne diseases (ticks are indeed the main source of diseases spread here by insects and arachnids). But since his arrival here more than 20 years ago, West Nile Virus has become the most common mosquito-borne disease in the states. And while birds are a natural reservoir of West Nile, the virus has been routine extremely deadly for certain North American species.
West Nile is a nationally notifiable disease in the US, meaning doctors are required to report known cases to health departments. But most cases are not caught, largely because about 80% of people infected with West Nile never develop noticeable symptoms. Those who get sick tend to experience symptoms such as fever, headache, rash, and fatigue, the latter of which can take weeks or even months to fully recover. More rarely, in about one in 150 cases, the virus can infect the nervous system, causing much more serious problems, such as swelling of the brain or its protective layers. Neuroinvasive West Nile can lead to paralysis, tremors and even coma, and about 10% of patients with this form of the disease eventually die as a result.
New York City was the epicenter of the first known West Nile outbreak in the US in 1999. Since then it has been found in all 48 landlocked states, but NYC remains a popular summer destination for West Nile. On Tuesday, health officials reported that two people had recently contracted West Nile, one in Brooklyn and the other in Queens. Perhaps more disturbingly, the virus has been found in an unprecedented number of local mosquito pools, meaning samples have been collected by catching a large group of mosquitoes and testing them all for the virus at once. So far, 1,068 positive West Nile mosquito pools have been documented in the five boroughs, well above the 779 positive pools reported this time last summer.
Nationally, 54 cases and four deaths have been attributed to West Nile this year, according to health officials. And since 1999, more than 25,000 cases of neuroinvasive West Nile and nearly 2,500 deaths have been reported in the country. The chances of getting seriously ill or dying from West Nile are relatively slim, but mosquitoes are annoying enough, and their peak activity won’t diminish until at least October – so it’s still wise to take all the precautions you can, especially because West Nile won’t be leave soon in the US.
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“We are at the peak of West Nile virus season, but there are things you can do to reduce the risk of being bitten,” NYC health commissioner Ashwin Vasan said in a statement. pronunciation. “Use an EPA-registered insect repellent, wear long sleeves and long pants, especially when outside at dusk and dawn when the types of mosquitoes that transmit WNV are most active. In addition, you can prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water by emptying outdoor containers that contain water or calling 311 if you see standing water that you can’t empty. Help keep you and your loved ones safe with these actions during the WNV season.”
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