The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has issued an advisory stating that it has detected the West Nile virus in several neighborhoods across the city including seven in Queens — Pomonok, Jamaica Estates, Kew Gardens, Brookville, Rosedale, Bay Terrace and Woodhaven.
The agency advises residents, especially those over 50, to take precautions in order to avoid becoming infected. DOH recommends using repellents that contain DEET, oil of lemon Eucalyptus, IR3535 or Picaridin; wear protective clothing such as loose-fitting pants, long-sleeved shirts and socks; eliminate standing water; and make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens.
Earlier this month, City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) called on the DOH to spray the Jamaica Estates and Pomonok areas, which are part of his district, after mosquitoes there tested positive for the West Nile virus. Many residents said the neighborhoods are being overrun with Asian tiger mosquitoes, which Gennaro said are invasive and have no natural enemies. It is believed that the culex pipiens species is the main carrier of the virus.
Spraying was conducted in some parts of Pomonok on Aug. 4 and DOH is conducting extensive larval mosquito control in the other affected areas of Queens, but so far they do not warrant spraying for the adult insects, according to DOH spokeswoman Susan Craig.
She also said that hot weather causes the virus to multiply in mosquitoes but that the agency has identified fewer virus isolates from the insects this year than for the same time last year.
In response to Gennaro’s concerns, the DOH agreed to place traps north and south of the Grand Central Parkway in order to observe mosquitoes in Pomonok and Jamaica Estates. The data collected should be made available by the end of the week, Gennaro’s office said. The agency will also larvacide catch basins in Jamaica Estates and send exterminators to proactively spray standing water.
City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) said he has received complaints about mosquitoes from constituents, particularly in the Rockaways, all summer long. He called the problem “dangerous,” and “out of control,” adding that there seems to be an increase in the population of these blood-sucking insects and that they have become more aggressive.
West Nile virus was first identified in Uganda in 1937 and spread to the United States in 1999, where it was discovered in College Point. Since then, the disease spread nationwide.
Most people infected with the West Nile virus have no signs or symptoms, but about 20 percent develop a mild infection called West Nile fever, which causes fever, headache, body aches, fatigue and occasionally skin rash, swollen lymph glands and eye pain. It can be fatal to the elderly or those with weak immune systems.