By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
NEW YORK — As reports of an early mosquito season come in from around the country, some experts worry that the recent warm temperatures and heavy rains will fuel an increase in mosquito-borne diseases here at home.
In Connecticut, officials at the state Agricultural Experiment Station told AP on Thursday that they've seen a more than two-fold increase in the types of mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus. Increased mosquito populations have been reported in Florida, Kentucky and California as well. Two human West Nile infections have been recently been reported, one in Arizona and one in Texas.
The numbers aren’t in yet for New York State, Department of Health (NYS DOH) spokesperson John Emery told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday. “We do collect mosquito samples, but at this point we can't speculate on increases in total mosquito populations versus other years.”
Emery told the Eagle that while surveillance programs have not detected more infected mosquitoes than usual, “Increased precipitation and standing water can increase the pools they can develop in.”
Mosquitoes usually hatch seven to 10 days after heavy rains.
Four mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus have been discovered in New York State so far this year, though none in New York City. No humans have caught the disease in New York so far this year.
“People should be very aware of the fact that West Nile could occur,” Emery told the Eagle. “We’re continuing our program of surveillance to identify where mosquito pools might be and prevent the spread of the virus to people.”
The New York City Office of Vector Surveillance and Control tries to keep the lid on the pests by dropping bacterial larvicide from helicopters into marshes and other natural areas. Aerial larvicide was applied in mid-June to neighborhoods in Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx, according to the city's DOH.
If the level of West Nile virus poses “a significant threat to human health,” the city will spray pesticide to kill the adult mosquitoes. No spraying or larvicide has been applied so far this year in Brooklyn.
According to NYS DOH, last year in New York City 11 people came down with West Nile, two in Brooklyn. One person — a Queens resident — died. In 2010, six Brooklynites came down with the disease.
Most people — about 80 percent — infected with West Nile suffer no long-term effects. Others may come down with 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 coma.
Emery says that it’s important to take steps to eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes by eliminating all standing water. Mosquitoes can breed easily in artificial containers such as birdbaths, discarded tires, buckets, clogged gutters and other standing water sources.
“Members of the public play an important role in source reduction,” Emery said. “Examples are numerous... removing unused plastic pools, old tires, or buckets; clearing clogged gutters; emptying standing water from children’s outdoor toys, flower pots or any object that can hold water; and keeping swimming pools chlorinated and their covers free of stagnant water.”
Other tips: Cover your skin as much as possible when outside when mosquitoes are present and active. Use insect repellent on exposed skin and follow label directions. And make sure there are screens in your home's windows and doors.