Summer's here - which means it's time to battle the mosquitoes. Underscoring the point of taking sensible precautions against getting bitten, the presence of West Nile virus has been confirmed in a mosquito pool in Rockland County.
This is by no means a downstate issue. There were traces of West Nile virus in Fulton and Oneida counties in 2013, according to the state Department of Health. In Saratoga and Albany counties, there were cases of people testing positive for the disease.
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause serious illness and even death.
While there were no deaths in 2013 from the disease, nine people died in 2012.
Many people who contract West Nile virus do not experience any type of illness, according to the state DOH. An estimated 20 percent of people who become infected will develop mild symptoms including fever, headache and body aches, and possibly a skin rash or swollen lymph glands. Severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis) causes symptoms such as high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, headaches, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma.
"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," said Bryon Backenson, director of the state Health Department's Investigations and Vector Surveillance Units, in a news release. "That is why it is essential to take steps to avoid potentially harmful mosquito bites."
To minimize exposure to mosquito bites, the DOH recommends people take precautionary measures, such as wearing shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for a long period of time. People are also advised to apply appropriate mosquito repellent and to remove all standing water from property.
The DOH also notes people can:
Dispose of used tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers in which water collects.
Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are outdoors. Make sure roof gutters drain properly and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when they are not in use, and change the water in bird baths twice a week.
Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
Chlorinate and clean swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs, and drain water from pool covers.
Even if people don't consider West Nile virus a problem, reducing the mosquitoes around their yard will make time outdoors more pleasant for them - and their neighbors.
For more information about West Nile virus, visit www.health.ny.gov/diseases/west_nile_virus/fact_sheet.htm.