Health Department To Monitor Levels
By Mary Frost
State Sen. Martin Golden called on the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday to ramp up the spraying of pesticide in southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods after receiving reports about West Nile Virus activity in his district, which stretches from Bay Ridge to Marine Park.
But DOH told Golden that the city would take a wait-and-see approach pending the outcome of ongoing testing.
Just because the virus was not detected in other neighborhoods doesn’t mean it isn’t there, DOH warns.
West Nile Virus, spread by mosquitoes, can cause serious neurological diseases such as encephalitis and meningitis, especially in people over 50 and those with weakened immune systems. Others can be afflicted with mild-to-severe flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache and fatigue.
“This morning upon learning that the West Nile Virus activity was detected in parts of my district, I contacted the Department of Health and have requested that the Bath Beach, Dyker Heights, Gravesend and Marine Park sections receive additional spraying immediately,” Golden said in a statement. “I have also requested that neighboring communities, such as Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Gerritsen Beach be scheduled for spraying as well, so to be proactive in protecting the health of area residents.”
Golden’s spokesperson, John Quaglione, explained DOH’s response to the Senator’s request. “According to their analysis, the risk of the virus being present is enough to urge people to take precautions, but not enough to require immediate spraying. DOH said they will monitor it,” he said. “If the virus increases, they will spray again.’ He added, “They will give 24-hour notice before spraying.”
Detected as Part of Regular Inspections
“West Nile Virus was detected in mosquito pools in Brooklyn, not in humans,” Department of Health (DOH) spokesperson Chanel Caraway told the Brooklyn Eagle Thursday. “Spraying was conducted in Brooklyn on Aug. 3 and 10.”
Spraying took place in parts of Greenwood Heights, Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, according to the DOH website.
The infected mosquitoes were discovered through the regular inspections carried out by DOH. “The Health Department routinely monitors New York City for the presence of West Nile virus in mosquitoes by placing weekly mosquito traps, and counting the number of mosquitoes present in a variety of areas of the city,” Caraway said.
West Nile Virus has emerged as a major public health problem, causing “large outbreaks of neuroinvasive disease since 2002,” according to DOH. Since first appearing in the U.S. in 1999, 240 New Yorkers came down with the disease, 37 of them in Brooklyn. The borough with the most infected mosquitoes is Queens, with 96 reported infections since 1999, followed by Staten Island (with 47), Brooklyn and the Bronx, and finally Manhattan.
Last year 981 human cases were reported in the U.S., including 45 deaths.
Since symptoms can resemble the flu, many people may have been infected without realizing that it was West Nile, according to DOH. Of those sick enough to go to the hospital, between 10 to 15 percent die from the infection.
Change Birdbath Water
DOH’s Caraway advised people to avoid pools of water and cover arms and legs when mosquitoes are most likely to be out — late afternoon and early evening. People should also use insect repellent when appropriate, she said.
DOH urges residents to change the water in birdbaths once each week; to clean and chlorinate swimming pools or drain and cover if not in use; and to unclog gutters and down spouts.
“Mosquito control in New York City depends on elimination of standing water,” she said, adding that DOH also sprays larvacide in marshy areas.
Residents can check the Health Department website under “West Nile Spraying” for updates.