Perusing last year's summer issues of the local papers, one finds several stories about the West Nile virus threat. The summer of 2001, however, makes it appear as if it barely exists, except perhaps in New Jersey, Staten Island and Fire Island, where reports of the virus exist and mosquito spraying is reported.
Eliminating breeding grounds is the best defense against West Nile virus. Here, Nassau County Legislator Craig Johnson listens to Tamson Yeh, a representative from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, as she points to a potential breeding place for mosquitoes at the legislator's North Shore home.
According to Nassau County Legislator Craig Johnson's office, the most recent reports have identified 77 crows as positive for West Nile virus ; in Queens a house sparrow tested positive for the virus and on Staten Island several infected birds and mosquito pools have been reported, in addition to one human death. In Nassau County, the North Shore has had no reports of the virus to date. However, three mosquito pools have been identified, one each in West Hempstead, Wantagh and East Meadow. Ten birds have also tested positive for WNV, three in Merrick, two in Levittown,Bellmore, Hempstead, one in Wantagh and, at press time, one to be announced...but not from the North Shore.
At this time, Nassau County has no plans to spray for adult mosquitoes, according to Legislator Johnson's office. The Departments of Health and Public Works will continue their mosquito control efforts by inspecting breeding sites and, when necessary, applying larvicide. Mosquito surveillance will continue at the 42 trap sites located throughout the county and will intensify in the areas where birds have been reported.
The county will continue the routine aerial applications of larvicide in the non-populated areas in the salt marshes off Jones Beach. "The presence of the West Nile virus in birds is not expected," said Dr. Abby Greenberg, director of disease control for the Nassau County Department of Health. "We hope this finding serves to add urgency to our message of eliminating mosquito breeding sites around the home and on private property. Nevertheless, we believe the risk of infection for Nassau residents remains quite low."
What do they attribute to the decrease in the reported cases of WNV this year? "Luck," was one joco-serious response. However, the impact of the County's mosquito control program, including small local adult larvicide treatments and a heightened educational program for property owners, cannot be underestimated. "We only hope local residents won't be lulled into a false sense of security regarding West Nile," said Johnson. "We have to remain vigilant."
The Legislator notes that after the recent heavy rains, it is important to eliminate any stagnant water before it becomes an opportunity for mosquitoes to breed. He asks that residents be reminded of the following preventive measures to eliminate conditions conducive to mosquito breeding:
° Dispose of any tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water holding containers around the house.
° Remove all discarded tires on your property.
° Make sure roof gutters drain properly.
° Turn over wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
° Change the water in bird baths.
° Clear debris from storm drains and edges of ponds.
° Drain water from pool covers.
If West Nile virus is discovered in the community, residents can protect themselves by:
° Minimizing outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.
° Wearing shoes and socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors for long periods of time, or when mosquitoes are more active.
° Considering the use of a mosquito repellent.
The public is encouraged to report dead crows and other birds to the Department of Health's hotline Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. at 516-571-8707.