West Nile Virus
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause serious illness, and in some cases, death. West Nile virus was first found in New York State in 1999. Since 2000 there have been over 254 human cases (26 deaths) of WNV statewide. Please refer to the West Nile Virus Update for the most recent information.
The chances of a person becoming ill with WNV are small. Most people who are infected with the West Nile virus will not have any type of illness. It is estimated that 20% of the people who become infected will develop West Nile fever: mild symptoms, including fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. In many individuals, these symptoms are so mild that they go unnoticed or undetected.
The symptoms of severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis) can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, and coma. It is estimated that one in 150 persons infected with the West Nile virus will develop the more severe form of the disease. Prevention of mosquito-bites is the most important way to reduce your risk of mosquito-borne diseases such as WNV.
How to protect yourself and your family
- To help protect yourself from mosquitoes and West Nile Virus, wear long sleeves, pants and socks.
- Consider using insect repellent (click here for insect repellent information) on exposed skin, and follow label directions. Repellents can be effective at reducing bites from insects that can transmit disease. But their use is not without risk of health effects, especially if repellents are applied in large amounts or improperly. Information in the fact sheets will help you decide when and if a repellent is right for you.
- To reduce the mosquito population around your home and property, reduce or eliminate all standing water:
- Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.
- Dispose of used tires. Used tires are a significant mosquito breeding site.
- Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.
- Make sure roof gutters drain properly, and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
- Remove leaf debris from yards and gardens.
- Turn over wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
- Change the water in birdbaths twice weekly.
- Clean vegetation and debris from edges of ponds.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
- Drain water from pool covers.
- Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.