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Residents Urged to Phone Into West Nile Hotline

The summer's first samples of the virus has been detected in Suffolk County.

As the summer season enters into full swing, the risk of contracting mosquito-borne infections, like West Nile virus, dramatically increases. To reduce harm to residents, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services is urging residents to call in to the West Nile hotline.

So far this summer, the virus has been identified in a crow in Northport and in a sample mosquito pool test in Islip.

Residents are asked to call in to the Department of Health Services’ Public Health Hotline at (631) 787-2200, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m and 4 p.m. if they spot dead birds in their community. Calls made during non-business hours may be left on the phone answering machine.

“Although most people experience no symptoms from West Nile virus,” said Dr. James Tomarken, commissioner of the SCDHS, "some people will develop severe symptoms including high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. The symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent,” he said.

Birds that are prone to being bit by infected mosquitoes that could indicate the presence of the virus in a given area include crows, blue jays, hawks, falcons, owls, exotic or unusual bird species. If a resident spots a dead bird of the mentioned kinds, or peculiar circumstances such as die-offs of multiple birds, they are urged to take action from a safe distance by calling in the sighting.

West Nile virus was first detected in Suffolk County in 1999. It is estimated that 20 percent of those who become infected will develop some form of West Nile illness. Mild symptoms include fever, headache, body aches and occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands.  It can lead to West Nile encephalitis or meningitis with severe symptoms including high fever, muscle weakness, stupor and disorientation. 

Since 2001, when the first human case of West Nile virus was identified in Suffolk County, there have been nearly four dozen human cases and several deaths attributed to the disease.

In addition to spotting dead birds that may be carrying the disease, residents are encouraged to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by making sure windows and door screens do not have holes and tears, trimming overgrown bushes and making sure that stagnant water does not accumulate in bird baths, empty flower pots, abandoned tires or chair cushions. Dump water in children’s pools immediately after use and avoid going outdoors from dusk to dawn – peak mosquito-biting hours.  Residents who do go outside at these times of day should wear shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.  Insect repellent containing DEET has been proven to be most effective at reducing mosquito bites, assuming they are applied according to manufacturer’s instructions.

For further information on West Nile virus, visit the Department of Health Services’ web site at www.suffolkcountyny.gov/health or call (631) 853-3055.

ElliotU July 12, 2012 at 04:05 AM
The problem with telling people to avoid mosquitoes, this summer, is akin to telling a person about to jump into a pool, not to get wet. I have never seen as many biting bugs out there. I use insect repellent, long pants and have still gotten bitten. The counties need to start mass spraying and do it soon
Jam Girl July 12, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Riiight, let the government spray us with toxic chemicals designed to kill and risk untold numbers of people getting cancer/sick from the spraying, just so 1 elderly person doesnt contract this disease?
Nanci e. LaGarenne July 12, 2012 at 01:30 PM
my friend uses a natural spray in a blue bottle called Buddah Nose. Repels Mosquitos with natural oils. Safe.
ElliotU July 12, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I have been using 100% deet for many years. The problem is that the moquito population seems to be so great that its not working. I even did one better .I went to home depot and bought a moquito defogger and sprayed my entire yard. Its supposed to work for a month. Nothing!!!! I got three bites while gardening.
ElliotU July 12, 2012 at 01:54 PM
There have not been any studies to suggest that the spraying the counties have done in past years have caused any elevation in cancer rates.

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