Health officials in New York City reported two human cases of the West Nile virus (WNV), amid a banner summer for infected mosquitoes—and COVID-19 and monkeypox and polio—in the city. According to a statement from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, one case was found in Brooklyn and one in Queens. The department also said that a record number of WNV-infected of mosquitoes have been detected in the city. A total of 1,068 mosquito pools have tested positive across the five city boroughs, compared to 779 positive pools last year.
“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, via press release. Vasan explained that steps like using an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and long pants during dusk and dawn can help prevent contracting the virus. “In addition, you can stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water by emptying outdoor containers that hold water,” Dr. Vasan added.
The virus is most commonly spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. WNV season typically runs from July through October when mosquitoes are most prevalent. There is currently no vaccine for the virus, so these preventative measures are the best way to avoid infection.
Symptoms of WNV include fatigue, fever, headache, body aches, and rash, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80% of people do not experience any symptoms. The majority of people infected with WNV fully recover, but some can continue to have problems after infection. There is a risk that some people, especially those 60 years and older or the immunocompromised, can develop a serious or potentially fatal illness of the brain and spinal cord. Anyone experiencing WNV symptoms is urged to contact their health care provider to seek treatment.
A total of 54 human cases of the virus disease have been reported to the CDC as of August 9th. In 2021, a total of 2,695 human cases were reported to the federal agency.
Viruses like WNV are likely to increase as the planet warms. According to a study published on August 8th in the journal Nature Climate Change, the effects of climate change will potentially aggravate over half of presently-known human pathogenic diseases. The authors write that, “warming and precipitation changes, for instance, were associated with range expansion of vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, birds, and several mammals implicated in outbreaks by viruses, bacteria, animals, and protozoans, including dengue, chikungunya, plague, Lyme disease, West Nile virus, Zika, trypanosomiasis, echinococcosis, and malaria to name a few.”