New York officials urge public to take precautions against West Nile virus

New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah urged all New Yorkers on Monday to take special precautions against mosquitoes and the potential risk of West Nile virus.

The announcement came after West Nile virus was discovered in mosquito pools in New York City and five other New York counties. So far this year, there have been a total of 20 mosquito pools that have tested positive for West Nile virus.

"We work closely with local health departments to help reduce the public's risk of exposure to mosquito-borne illness sources," Shah said. "However, the most important thing an individual can do is take basic precautions to avoid mosquito bites that could cause serious illness such as West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis virus."

The New York State Department of Health advises people take measures like wearing shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors for longer periods of time. Another precaution being urged is to use mosquito repellant and to remove standing water from property.

"All the rain we've had so far across the state may not mean we will see more mosquito-borne disease, but it definitely means we will see more mosquitoes," Bryon Backenson, director of the Department's Investigations and Vector Surveillance Units, said. "Taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites, and making sure water does not accumulate on your property, in gutters, birdbaths, toys, and other containers is a great way to not only minimize the risk of acquiring disease, but also to minimize the nuisance of mosquitoes in your backyard."