New York identifies encephalitis virus and West Nile virus in mosquitoes

The New York State Health Department urged New Yorkers on Tuesday to take precautions against mosquito bites after mosquitoes were identified carrying Eastern equine encephalitis virus and West Nile virus in the state.

The health department identified EEEv in 15 pools of mosquitoes in Chautauqua and Oswego counties. Children under the age of 15 and adults over the age of 50 are at the greatest risk for contracting the severe disease. There were human cases of EEEv reported in 1971, 1983, 2009, 2010 and 2011. All five human cases were fatal.

The department identified two human cases of WNv, both of which occurred in New York City. Mosquitoes carrying WNv were identified in multiple New York counties, including Westchester, Suffolk, Rockland, Oswego, Onondaga, Nassau, Madison, Erie and Chautauqua. Last year, there were 107 cases of WNv identified in the state with nine fatal cases.

"It is vital that New Yorkers protect themselves from mosquito bites throughout the summer and fall seasons," Nirav Shah, the New York state health commissioner, said. "Residents and visitors need to remember that mosquitoes can be more than just a nuisance and have the potential to carry and transmit disease."

There is no human vaccine available for EEEv or WNv. The best defense against the two diseases is protection against mosquito bites with an effective mosquito repellant and by wearing long pants and long sleeves. New Yorkers should also eliminate standing water in yards to avoid creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Eastern equine encephalitis is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes that causes a range of symptoms, from a mild, flu-like illness to serious illness involving seizures and death.

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes and can cause mild symptoms like fever, headache and body ache or severe infection with symptoms including convulsions, paralysis and coma.