West Nile Virus in Syracuse, EEE in Oswego County means avoid mosquitoes

The discovery of mosquitoes infected with West Nile Virus in Syracuse and Cicero, and mosquitoes infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Oswego County means it’s time for Central New Yorkers to step up our vigilance against mosquitoes.

Not every mosquito is infected, certainly, but health officials urge caution since both infections can be deadly. Twenty-six New Yorkers have died from West Nile Virus since 2000. Eastern Equine Encephalitis has killed three New Yorkers, in 1971, 1983 and 2009.

State lab tests detected the virus in mosquitoes collected in a trap July 20 on Midler Avenue, the Post-Standard reports. It is the first finding of West Nile virus in Onondaga County this year. Newschannel 9 reported on mosquitoes carrying EEE in West Monroe and Palermo.

Dr. Waleed Javaid MD, Upstate’s director of infection control, says about 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile Virus have such mild symptoms they go unnoticed. The other 20 percent may experience fever, headache, body ache, aches behind the eyes, and sometimes skin rash and swollen lymph glands. From the time of the bite until symptoms show is from two to 14 days.

The infection becomes severe when the virus affects the brain, causing muscle weakness, severe headache, confusion, paralysis and coma. No medications treat West Nile Virus.

Similary, no treatment exists for EEE. Most people who become infected will have mild symptoms, but those with a severe infection are likely to experience a sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, or coma.

Health officials say prevention is crucial.

To guard against mosquito bites, wear long sleeves, pants and socks, and consider insect repellent on exposed skin. “Follow label directions,” says the New York State Health Department website. “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.”

Health officials also remind us to keep screens in good repair, and eliminate any standing water, which attracts mosquitoes. Peak biting time is evening and early morning, so be extra vigilant then.

Learn more about West Nile Virus:

New York State Health Department

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization

Learn more about Eastern Equine Encephalitis:

New York State Health Department

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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