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West Nile disease reaches Monroe County

by Margot Stewart - Copy Editor
Wed, Oct 10th 2018 12:00 pm

The West Nile Virus (WNV), known to be spread mainly by mosquito bites, reached Monroe County in August of this year. Most prevalent during the mosquito season, late summer to early fall, WNV has had an established presence in the South, due to its warmer climate and has not been as large of an issue in the Northern regions of the United States. Despite this, the mosquito population continues to remain a threat, even as the colder months quickly approach.

“It [first] appeared in the United States in the summer of 1999,” The Mayo Clinic states. “Since then [it] has been reported in every state except Hawaii and Alaska, as well as in Canada.”

Specifically, “since 2000, 497 human cases and 37 deaths of WNV have been reported statewide,” states the New York Department of Health (NYSDH).

As for Monroe County, in 2018 alone, there have been two reported cases of the virus. In one of those cases a person died due to the virus. The Monroe County victim has been identified only as “an older adult,” according to the Democrat & Chronicle.

This is the only human fatality linked to the WNV to be reported this year. The two cases that were reported in Monroe County contributed to the seven reported cases throughout New York State in 2018. According to the NYSDH, of the counties that were located outside of New York City, Westchester and Nassau were the only other two counties that reported cases of the virus 

Lynne Maier, the Clinic Coordinator  for the Student Health Center at Hazen Center for Integrated Care, says that while the college hasn’t had a case of WNV they do “educate students travelling back to homes where it is more prevalent, school trips and or vacations.”

Similar to other illnesses, the mosquitos become carriers of this virus from feasting upon other animals that were previously infected with WNV. In this case, it is most common that the mosquitos fed on infected birds. The infected mosquitos continue to spread the virus every time they bite a human or animal.

After being bitten, the Mayo Clinic states the time in which it takes for any symptoms or signs of illness to appear can range from as few as two days to as many as 14 days.

Reassuringly, despite the relatively short incubation period, most people with WNV do not show any sign of symptoms of the illness. 

“About one in five people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms,” states the CDC. “About one out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.” 

Some symptoms that could occur include having a fever, aching body, vomiting or a rash, amongst others. However, it seems to be nothing to worry about as the CDC states “most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely.” The Center also states, “fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.”

It is important to note, though, that mosquitoes are most active at around dusk and just before dawn. Insect repellents as well as wearing long clothing can reduce any risk of contracting the WNV.

As for those who have been infected, unfortunately, according to the CDC, “There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV in people.” However, do not despair, over-the-counter pain relievers can be utilized in order to lower a fever or any of the aching symptoms that mayy occur.

“Those with weakened immune systems and elderly are most at risk,” Maier says. “At this time, Brockport students do not need to follow any precautions. Students travelling home to the NYC area should make sure to follow the tips as they have a higher number of infections in that area.” 

The NYSHD takes steps every year in an attempt to lower the number of people who will contract the WNV in any given year. Most notably are the efforts in both mosquito and human surveillance. 

In regards to mosquito surveillance specifically, the NYSDH goes to great lengths to get ahead of the virus spread. “Working with various county health departments, starting in early summer, the Department coordinates the weekly collection and identification of mosquitos from traps located in key habitats,” states NYSDH. This data is then technical assistance regarding local mosquito control measures.”

The Monroe County Department of Health states that the “risk [will] continue until the first frost.”

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