Mosquitos began testing positive for the West Nile Virus in Rockland County even before the official start of summer.
The positive results came in to the County Department of Health at the start of June, earlier than they did last year. According to Brian Hunderfund, county senior environmental health specialist and supervisor of mosquito control, the first positive test results for West Nile Virus in 2011 were reported during the week of July 22.
“This year our first positive was from the week of June 11,” he said. “We would expect the level would increase through the summer.”
Hunderfund said one theory for the early appearance was the warm winter, which allowed more adult mosquitos and larvae to survive. Last week 46 samples were submitted to the New York State Department of Health and nine came back positive. Since the week of June 11, mosquitos carrying West Nile Virus have identified in the towns of Clarkstown, Orangetown, Ramapo and Haverstraw. None have been found in Stony Point.
From June through July 20, the County Health Department submitted 221 samples to the state for testing with 197 coming back as negative and 24 as positive. Six positives have been reported for both Clarkstown and Orangetown, eight in Ramapo and four in Haverstraw. He noted more samples were submitted this past Monday and results were expected by Friday.
Although cases of West Nile Virus disease have been reported in New York State, Hunderfund said there are currently none in Rockland.
In 2011, a mosquito species new to Rockland, the , was discovered. None of the positive samples this year have been from that species which Hunderfund says is fortunate.
“We’re unsure what the health risks associated with them are,” he explained.
However, the Asian Tiger Mosquito is spreading in Rockland. In 2011, the species appeared in Orangetown and Clarkstown. This year, it has been found in those towns as well as Haverstraw.
Hunderfund said residents can take steps to prevent mosquitos including the Asian Tiger Mosquito from breeding.
“They typically only breed in containers,” he said. “It can breed in less than one ounce of water (about two tablespoons). Its favorite places to lay eggs are backyard containers, such as birdbaths, flowerpots and bases, toys, litter, and pets’ water dishes.”
People should store containers inside instead of leaving them outside to collect water. Mosquitos need only five days to go from egg to mosquito. He noted that most mosquitos that affect homeowners are found on or close to their property because they are not taking precautions to remove standing water.
This week, Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Orange) began distributing 1,000 informational mosquito bite prevention brochures throughout the county to senior centers, pools, day camps, and other places where large groups of people gather.
“We need to do everything in our power to provide residents the information necessary so that they understand how to keep themselves and their children safe,” said Carlucci. “Summer season can bring with it a host of dangerous illnesses that can result from a lack of knowledge.”
The brochure informs residents about ways to prevent and combat illnesses from deer ticks and Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and other infectious diseases transmitted by insects. To receive the brochure or to find a distribution location contact his office at (845) 623-3627 or email email@example.com.
A mosquito bite can develop into more than an irritation for some people.
“Though generally thought of as merely a nuisance, a bite from an infected mosquito can spread West Nile Virus, an infection that can cause serious illness, and in some cases, death,” said Dr. Joan H. Facelle, Rockland County Commissioner of Health. “Although a person's chances of getting sick are small, those 50 and older are at highest risk for serious illness.”
Unlike many of the other mosquitoes in Rockland, the Asian Tiger Mosquito bites all day, not just at dusk and dawn. It bites people and animals rapidly, and is very hard to swat away.
The department recommends following three steps to avoid moquito bites:
1. Check your yard for any containers that can hold water. Even the smallest amount of standing water can serve as a breeding site.
2. Get rid of the containers or empty the water out at least once a week. The Asian Tiger Mosquito usually will not travel far from its breeding site. It may fly from yard to yard within a neighborhood. So the mosquitoes that are biting you in your yard most likely are breeding in your yard – or in your neighbor’s.
3. Spread the word! Talk to your neighbors about the Asian Tiger Mosquito so you all can enjoy the outdoors without being bitten.
Hunderfund said the department began its mosquito prevention efforts in May with treatment of all catch basins in the county and throughout the summer workers are treating known breeding areas such as swamps. Homeowners with unused swimming pools can pick up free Mosquito Dunks at the health department in Pomona between 9 am and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.