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Deadly West Nile Virus detected in Brooklyn mosquitoes

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Potentially deadly West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitoes in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Dyker Heights, Greenwood Heights, Starrett City and Windsor Terrace, according to the New York City Department of Health.

The agency is urging people over the age of 50 to take extra precautions to prevent mosquito bites. Parents of young children should also take extra care, as should people with compromised immune systems.

Mosquitoes are collected in special traps from over 90 locations  or pools  citywide. Infected mosquitoes were detected on Aug. 3 in eight locations in Brooklyn, according to the city’s Department of Health. These include zip codes 11215, 11232, 11228, 11239, and 11414.

The situation is even worse in Staten Island, where 93 locations showed infected mosquitoes, and in Queens, where 41 sites show the virus. One human in Staten Island  has come down with a severe case of West Nile so far this summer.

Most people — about 80 percent — infected with West Nile suffer no long-term effects. Others may experience mild symptoms, such as fever, headache, body aches or swollen glands. People with severe cases, however, may experience a sudden onset of headache, high fever, neck stiffness, convulsions, inflammation of the brain or death.

Anne-Katrin Titze, a park activist and New York State-licensed wildlife rehabilitator points a finger at Prospect Park's “stagnant lakeside pools of filthy water.” The Health Department urges people to check their property for stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.

“Over the past two weeks, West Nile Virus detection has gone up and there are no alerts for Prospect Park visitors to take precautions,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Friday via email. “The Prospect Park Alliance [and Parks Department] continues to ignore all Department of Health warnings and mandatory regulations calling for the elimination of stagnant pools.”

West Nile Virus has been detected in mosquitoes in the areas shown in red, above. Source: NYC Dept. of Health

Conditions on the lake are even worse than last year, she said, because of the outbreak of Azolla, a thick green carpet of algae-like plants known as “killer fern.” (See story here.)

“This is a serious public park safety health issue that was not addressed last year when West Nile Virus was detected. With the outbreak of Azolla, the conditions at the watercourse are far worse this year. The entire lake is a stagnant body of water with debris and erosion,” she said.

Titze is also furious that inadequate notice is given to park users about pesticide spraying around the park.

When the park was sprayed last year on Aug. 5, “The many playground attendees that Friday morning were not warned about the spraying inside the park,” she says. “No one cleaned off the playground equipment that was open all day of the spraying.”

“As you may recall, the Prospect Park Alliance promoted a foraging event on the Saturday morning after the spraying last year, one day later,” she added. There have been no announcements so far about spraying the area this year.

Mosquitoes infected with dangerous West Nile Virus have been caught in traps like these set up Prospect Park's stagnant lakeside pools. Photo by Anne-Katrin Titze

Experts warned earlier this summer that weather conditions made it ripe for a strong mosquito season. (See Brooklyn Eagle story here.)

The city’s DOH gives the following advice:

• Use repellents that contain DEET, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, IR3535, or Picaridin and always follow label instructions.
• If outside from dusk to dawn, wear protective clothing if possible, such as loose-fitting pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks.
• Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Fix or replace screens that have tears or holes.

Reduce mosquito exposure around your home:
• Eliminate any standing water that collects on your property.
• Remind or help neighbors to eliminate standing water on their properties.
• Call 311 to report standing water.

For more information about West Nile virus, call 311, or go to www.nyc.gov/health

August 13, 2012 - 10:08am


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