VND New York health officials warn residents against West Nile virus

New York health officials warned state residents last week to take precautions against mosquito bites following confirmation of the West Nile virus in the southeastern part of Rockland County.

According to the New York Department of Health, investigators tested a mosquito pool and discovered the presence of the virus. The pool was the first in the state to test positive for the virus all year.

"Although we partner with local health departments to help reduce the public's risk of exposure to mosquito-borne illness sources, with West Nile virus circulating, it is important to take extra precautions," New York State Acting Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker said. "A few basic actions can greatly reduce the risk of getting mosquito bites that could cause serious illness such as West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis virus."

Last year, 589 mosquito pools tested positive in the state, and health officials reported 33 human cases of the virus, down significantly from 107 cases and nine deaths in 2012.

"Based on many factors, we know the number of West Nile virus cases may vary from year to year, but the potential for serious illness never does," Bryon Backenson, the director of the Department's Investigations and Vector Surveillance Units, said. "That is why it is essential to take steps to avoid potentially harmful mosquito bites."

The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne infection that causes symptoms like headache, high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, headaches, tremors and paralysis. To protect against the virus, authorities encouraged residents to dispose of items that may collect water and clean vegetation from ponds.