STATEN ISLAND, NY – The city’s Department of Health announced the first death in two years from West Nile virus in New York.
A Staten Island resident and five other New Yorkers have been diagnosed with the first West Nile infections of the 2020 season, according to a Department of Health news release.
The person who died was over 65 and “age is a known risk factor for severe outcomes from the West Nile virus. This is the first death from West Nile virus infection in New York since 2018, “the statement read.
The release did not list the district of origin of the dead person among the six infected people.
All six were hospitalized and five were discharged, officials said.
“We do not disclose any information beyond what is contained in the release,” said an email from a spokesperson for the Department of Health.
“We mourn the loss of a New York colleague and urge everyone to take simple precautions to keep themselves and their families safe from mosquito bites,” said Health Commissioner Dr Dave Chokshi. “When outdoors, wear mosquito repellent, cover your arms and legs, get rid of standing water and install mosquito nets to reduce the risk.”
In addition to the Staten Islander who fell ill, the virus affected two people each in Manhattan and Queens and one person in Brooklyn. A Manhattan resident likely got infected while traveling from New York City, according to the press release.
The Department of Health warns that people who are over 50 or have weakened immune systems can experience serious complications like meningitis and encephalitis that could cause permanent or long-term problems like muscle weakness, fatigue, confusion and depression. Others may experience milder symptoms such as headache, fever, fatigue, and a rash.
First detected in the city about 20 years ago, the number of human cases ranged from three to 47 per year since 1999. Last year, 10 New Yorkers were diagnosed with the virus, the news release said.
Of the 434 New Yorkers who have been diagnosed with West Nile virus since 1999, 47 or 11 percent have died from their infection. The number of positive mosquito pools has also varied annually from 40 to 1,024. The city has over 47 species of mosquitoes, but the West Nile virus is mainly transmitted by several species of Culex, including salinarius, pipiens and restuans, the statement said.
West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitoes collected in the five districts, the statement said.
“The Department of Health has successfully helped control mosquito-borne diseases with regular mosquito surveillance during early spring and summer,” according to the news release.
The city has 106 surveillance traps in the five boroughs.
“The mosquito control agency’s efforts are data-driven and build on our mosquito trapping and test results to determine the areas of the city to spray pesticides and apply the larvicide,” the statement said. “The Department of Health will increase spraying in neighborhoods that meet these criteria. Department employees use trucks or backpack sprayers to kill adult flying mosquitoes.”