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West Nile Virus   West Nile Virus is a virus first seen in the Western Hemisphere last fall. This article has been written to give you information on how to protect yourself from this virus. ONLY A SMALL PORTION OF PEOPLE WHO ARE INFECTED WITH THE WEST NILE VIRUS WILL ACTUALLY GET SICK.  Most infected people have no symptoms at all. Some may have mild, flu-like symptoms and recover in a few days to a week. The most common symptoms, in order of frequency, that occurred in last years outbreak, include fever, muscle weakness, headache, altered mental status, rash, stiff neck, arthralgia, photophobia and myalgia. However, a few people may get encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can be fatal. In the New York City outbreak last fall, there were 62 confirmed cases of encephalitis caused by the West Nile Virus. Seven of them died.  West Nile Virus appears to be most dangerous to older people and children under one year old.  Even though the odds of you or your loved ones contracting encephalitis are very small, it is best to take preventive measures.

WEST NILE VIRUS IS TRANSMITTED BY MOSQUITOES, SO GETTING RID OF PLACES WHERE MOSQUITOES BREED IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEASURE YOU CAN TAKE. We can significantly reduce our mosquito population by removing places where mosquitoes breed (standing water).  Culex pipiens, the mosquito that carries the West Nile Virus, is very common in our area, but it is a very weak flyer and doesn't travel far from where it's born.  So if you have mosquitoes around your house, odds are they were born on your property or that of your neighbors. Birds, especially crows, carry the virus but cannot transmit it to people. The mosquito is a necessary go-between (or vector) between birds and people. Mosquitoes will first bite infected crows and then transfer the virus when they later bite people. MOSQUITOES BREED IN STANDING OR STAGNANT WATER.  As little as a half-inch is enough for them.  Mosquitoes will lay eggs in the water of clogged gutters, kiddie wading pools, rainwater sitting in a wheelbarrow or a tire swing, the puddle formed by a dripping faucet or air conditioning system, saucers under plant pots, canoes or other boats sitting in the yard, birdbaths. GETTING RID OF POTENTIAL BREEDING PLACES IS NOT HARD.  Just turn over all containers when they are not in use or drill holes in the bottom so water will run out.  Clean your gutters.  Change your bird bath water at least twice a week.  Properly dispose of old tires. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools or drains and cover if not in use.

IF YOU HAVE NEIGHBORS WHO REFUSE TO REMOVE STAGNANT WATER, even after you have explained the problem, call the Nassau County Mosquito Control at 516-571-8707. They will send an inspector, and, if the standing water is a problem, will order the person to remove the water source. For medical questions concerning WNV call 516-571-3436. The NY State Hotline for WNV is 1-800-458-1158 X27530. MOVING WATER OR WATER WITH FISH IS NOT A PROBLEM. The mosquitoes require stagnant water. Fish, as well as birds, bats, frogs, toads and other animals eat mosquito larvae and mosquitoes.  If you have a water garden or other stagnant pool, putting in a pump or aerator will give you moving water.  Or a couple of goldfish will feast daily on any mosquito larvae that might happen onto your pond. If you see water backing up from a sewer or storm drain, or if the storm drain appears to be clogged and the water is not moving or seems to be breeding mosquitoes, call the Department of Health. They will check the pond immediately and correct any problems. ANOTHER WAY TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM MOSQUITOES is to be sure that all window screens fit tightly and have no tears or holes in them. INSECT REPELLANTS SHOULD BE USED SPARINGLY AND WITH CAUTION, IF AT ALL.  It is best to spray repellents on your clothes BEFORE you put them on.  NEVER spray repellants directly on the skin of children under three years old or on the hands of children of any age who may put their hands in their mouths. THE CULEX MOSQUITO IS A NIGHTTIME MOSQUITO.  It comes out at dusk and is active until dawn.   So if you will be walking in the woods in the evening or camping overnight in an area where mosquitoes are active, mosquito repellents with DEET can be useful.  Read and follow label cautions. Mosquitoes that are active during the day probably do not carry the West Nile Virus.  However, it's still a good idea to eliminate breeding places for all mosquitoes because mosquitoes can carry a variety of other diseases.  Mosquitoes are more than a nuisance. Worldwide they are responsible for more human deaths than any other living creature!  Mosquitoes are also responsible for dog heartworm. IF YOU SEE DEAD CROWS, THAT APPEAR TO HAVE DIED OF NATURAL CAUSES (not a broken neck from flying into a window or obviously mauled by a cat, etc.) you should call 571-8707.  Tell them you are calling to report a dead crow.  You will be asked several questions about the bird such as where you found it, what condition it's in, what kind of bird it is, etc.  The purpose of these questions is for public health surveillance.  We want to identify whether an unusual number of crows are dying in specific areas, which would be an early warning of a problem. YOU CANNOT CATCH WEST NILE VIRUS FROM A BIRD.  However, as with any dead animal, you should wear gloves when handling the bird and wash your hands afterward.  Dead birds can safely be buried on your property. FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT NYC Public Health Department PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT!

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