Spraying Against West Nile in NYC

New York City residents experienced their first round of spraying last night and this morning after two dead crows infected with the virus were found earlier this week.

Spraying occurred in two spots on Staten Island, one of the city’s boroughs, last night and early this morning.

Meanwhile, test results for West Nile came up negative for a 71-year-old South Carolina man who died while visiting Staten Island, according to city health officials. He had come to the local hospital with symptoms of encephalitis, but the man also had multiple illnesses, the officials said.

To date, no human cases of West Nile encephalitis have been detected this year, but hundreds of people have been tested.

NYC Suburbs Affected

Earlier this week, the virus was detected in mosquitoes in Westchester and Suffolk counties in New York, where more spraying is scheduled for later this week. Dead birds carrying the virus also were found in Rockland County, another target for spraying.

Health Department spokesman John Signor said the finding of the West Nile virus in mosquitoes was based on preliminary DNA evidence, but confirmation was likely enough “to put it in a press release and announce it, get the word out.”

The Suffolk Department of Health Services immediately announced an insecticide-spraying program, targeting the virus.

Rockland County, where President and Hillary Rodham Clinton have a home, plans to begin spraying in Clarkston, where seven crows and a blue jay have been found infected.

A total of 19 birds from the suburbs in New York and New Jersey had earlier been found infected.

The Staten Island crows were the first sign of West Nile this year in New York City, which was the epicenter of the outbreak last year. Seven people died of complications from the virus: five from the city, one from Suffolk and one from Westchester. Extensive measures, ranging from pesticide spraying by helicopter to dropping larvicides in catch basins, were undertaken throughout the region.

If the mosquito transfers the virus to human blood, encephalitis, a swelling of the brain that is sometimes fatal, can results.

The virus that appeared in New York last year apparently survived the winter.

Different Mosquito Species Carry Virus

New York State Health Commissioner Antonia Novello said it was no surprise to find mosquitoes carrying the virus, given all the birds that tested positive in recent weeks. Birds, like humans, get the disease from mosquitoes.

But she said the sample from Westchester revealed the virus for the first time in the Aedes japonicus mosquito, a recent arrival in the Northeast, which is “likely to be a daytime feeder.” She said adults tend to be found in wooded areas and in small water containers such as discarded tires.

The mosquito previously identified with the virus is the Culex pipiens, generally active between dusk and dawn.

Novello said measures already in place to minimize exposure to mosquitoes should be maintained — “this time during the daytime, as well as at night.”

They include covering bare skin and applying a repellent containing DEET; removing any outdoor items that hold water, including blocked gutters and old tires; repairing broken screens; and regular cleaning and chlorination of swimming pools.

Suffolk County Health Services spokeswoman Millie Svatek said that although the county’s Department of Public Works has been regularly spraying for mosquitoes — since years before the advent of West Nile — “This is different. This spraying is in order to prevent or reduce the transmission of this disease.”

Spraying to Commence

Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Geological Survey were working in the region earlier this week to assess existing preventive measures and to try some new ones — like trapping house sparrows to test them for antibodies.

Novello said she had contacted the CDC “to discuss a multi-state, regional approach to prepare a plan of action to fight the disease.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.