Two Cases of West Nile Virus in NYC
The New York Health Department confirmed on Tuesday, August 16th, the detection of two West Nile virus (WNV) cases in the city. The cases were detected in Brooklyn and Queens with reports indicating the presence of over 1,000 pools of infected mosquitoes in the city.
This figure is higher than the 779 from last year. Cases of WNV are usually prevalent in the city from July to October, with August and September being the peak months. According to the Department of Health’s statistics, 16 people on average are diagnosed with WNV every year. The average age of persons infected with the disease is 62 years, with a fatality rate of 14%. The United States has seen 54 cases and four deaths in 2022.
“We are in the height of West Nile virus season, but there are things you can do to decrease your risk of being bitten,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Use an EPA-registered insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, especially when outside at dusk and dawn when the types of mosquitoes that transmit WNV are most active.
In addition, you can stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water by emptying outdoor containers that hold water or calling 311 if you see standing water that you cannot empty. Help keep you and your loved ones safe with these actions during WNV season.”
According to the World Health Organization, the West Nile virus was discovered when a woman was infected in the West Nile district of Uganda in 1937. While the virus was discovered in Africa, it is commonly found in Europe, the Middle East, North America, and West Asia.
The first cases in the United States were detected in New York City in 1999, eventually spreading to the rest of the country. WNV is spread by mosquitoes and is not a contagious disease. 80% of the people who fall victim to the disease do not experience any visible symptoms. A flu-like illness, rash, and fever are common symptoms of WNV.
There is no vaccine or cure for the virus once a person is infected however in most cases, the disease disappears on its own. People with pre-existing health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and hypertension and those over the age of 50 are most at risk of becoming severely ill.
Severe cases of WNV will show symptoms including muscle weakness, confusion, and seizures. In the most extreme of cases, WNV infections may cause meningitis, encephalitis, or paralysis.
While many may compare WNV to another virus commonly spread in Africa, Malaria, there is a difference between the illnesses. The former is a virus that causes an infection while malaria is caused by a parasite.
The two diseases are spread by different kinds of mosquitoes. Malaria only infects human beings while WNV may infect people and animals such as horses and birds. Symptoms of malaria are said to appear more readily than those of WNV.